Japan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic attracted the world’s attention. The country’s unconventional approach to combating the disease serves to throw the lockdown logic into question.
On 18 January, the world total of COVID-19 cases was 95,484,666, with 2,039,695 deaths. Japan’s figures were 322,296 cases and 4,446 deaths. It was in a minority of countries where the disease killed more people in the autumn and winter than in the first wave in spring (Figure 1). The seven-day moving average of new daily deaths in the spring peaked at 23 on 5 May. It’s been higher every day since 2 December, and on 13 January it was 61. For balance and perspective, however, it’s worth noting that more Japanese died from 25 other causes in 2020 (Figure 2) and COVID-19 accounted for only 0.3 percent of all deaths, compared to about three percent of all global deaths. There were seven times as many suicides (23,749) and 41 times as many flu and pneumonia deaths (141,664). Japan was also one of the few countries without excess mortality caused by COVID-19.