Hello world, I know I’ve been absent for the last week and a half, but with good reason. I just recently returned from a business trip to Japan, and I got to experience firsthand the Japanese screening procedures and fear of H1N1. Unfortunately, one side-effect of that trip was falling behind on what’s going on in the rest of the world, but among other posts I want to write in the next few days is a post on H1N1, and I found two articles: one from ScienceDaily on a pandemic screening program, and one from Joystiq about Japanese companies pulling out of E3.
First, my personal experience: I flew from Atlanta directly into Tokyo Narita airport, a roughly 14 hour flight on the way there. It was a roughly half-full Boeing 747-400 whose video and audio systems malfunctioned about an hour into the flight; so, everyone was already well tired of being on the plane when we landed. During the flight, we were handed forms that we had to fill out asking whether we showed various symptoms, whether anyone around us had shown various symptoms and where we were staying while in Japan. Upon landing and pulling into our gate, we were made to sit an extra hour while people entered the plane in what amount to low level hazmat suits. They came by, took our questionaires and then another man came through with a thermographic camera to check all passengers temperatures. We believe that someone across the way must have been questionable because they spent a very long time on the other side of the plane talking to one or two people, but after all that, we recieved certification that we were clean and allowed to enter Japan. The next day, at my hotel, I received a packed from the Chuo City health department that contained masks and a thermometer that asked me to montior my temperature and symptoms in case I became ill during my trip. From talking to people in Japan, had I failed to pass my checkup on the plane, I would have been restricted to my hotel room for a week, effectively nullifying my business trip. Even so, one of our meetings was canceled because the company did not want to meet with Americans due to fear of infection. While we were in Tokyo, there was an outbreak in the Osaka area which caused the Japanese government to accept the fact that people get sick. It happens. You can’t keep your whole country in a bubble. Combine this with the fact that outside of Mexico (who are suspected of hiding an epidemic for a while before it got out of hand, and not exactly the bastion of fine health care to begin with) there have been roughly 20 deaths to date, this strain of flu, while annoying and discomforting, is not particularly virulent. Furthermore, using the 1918 Spanish flu as an example, most of the people who caught the late spring strain were immune to the much more virulent mutation that re-emerged in the fall and winter.
At any rate, I can appreciate Japan not wanting to make their entire island sick if they can help it, but they had to realize that they are not Madagascar in Pandemic 2. They are a large member of the global economy, they are bound to be exposed to the virus. These somewhat obsessive measures to keep it out of their country and keep their countrymen and women out of infected countries are only going to further diminish their already spiraling economy. (I saw while I was there that their GDP went down by something like 15% last quarter). So the fact that Capcom’s Kenji Inafune as well as members of Square Enix and Koei are pulling out of E3 seems…well, ludicrous. It is their perrogative to go or not, but being a no show is not going to help their sales.
As far as the other article, I think, in theory, this is a good chance for the Americans to test out this screening system on a less worrisome but still traceable virus and see if there are any kinks in the system, but we need to be wary of falling into the same problems the Japanese are facing. With something like this H1N1 infection, it was a bit of an annoyance for me, but with a much more problematic pandemic, it could work out to save a ton of lives. I guess when it comes to my final thought, the quarantine checks could have been far worse in Japan, and it could have ruined my business trip, but I think in this case it was still a little much for the situation.
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