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Behavioral Changes and How to Lift COVID-19 Restrictions

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It appears Japan manages to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve while barely avoiding medical collapse. Even if we succeed in this immediate emergency, however, another daunting challenge is awaiting: a delicate balancing act between reopening social activities to minimize economic damages, and preventing recurrence of infection, perhaps for a long period of time.

This “tightrope-walking” will inevitably have to be “incremental” and “ready to adjust quickly” as soon as things turn out to go astray. In other words, we’ll be forced to live in a very serious “experimental” environment as guinea pigs real-time.

Needless to say, sufficient physical and human resources for (PCR) testing and contact-tracing to combat possible recurrence need to be in place before starting this “experiment”.

This dilemma between life and economy is the same in the USA. New York Times’s opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof also likens this situation to an “experiment” in his column (“The Virus Is Winning” 5/6/2020) and recommends the use of randomized controlled trial (RCT), which is the primary tool for behavioral scientists and medical professionals alike.

We agree with him. By making use of the bitter experience of infection recurrence in Hokkaido, we’ll have to take full advantage of behavioral insights available in facing up to this challenge.