Can someone please help me out here? I keep reading these reports saying that even if scientists come up with a vaccine, it’ll be 12-18 months before it’s on the market. Then I read other reports saying that we already have drugs that have shown promise, or that a vaccine could be available in as little as 90 days. See, for instance, these reports here, here, here and here. (You’ll notice that I read stuff that’s on both sides of the political fence, but never mind that.) So my question is: what’s going on? Do we really have to wait a year, and if so, why?
Some of you might be wondering what’s happening in Japan, where I live. Let me fill you in. Life is proceeding pretty much as normal, but people have made a few lifestyle changes. Hand sanitizer dispensers are now ubiquitous. Most (but not all) people wear masks on trains, not to protect themselves but to reduce the risk of transmission to others. People are generally expected to wear masks at work. Mass gatherings have been canceled, but people still dine at restaurants (I’ve done so twice this week, but I kept a fairly safe distance from people at other tables). Stores tend to sell out of toilet paper fairly quickly, but it’s still available every morning. There’s plenty of food on supermarket shelves. Cram schools re-opened this week, but most schools haven’t opened yet, and aren’t expected to do so until early to mid-April or perhaps early May. Children have been told by their teachers not to play with other children during the spring term break, and I think most teenagers are complying with that directive, but I saw some young children playing in the park near where I live, today. Finally, most people are still going to work: nothing, it seems, can stop the Japanese from doing that. However, many people (including myself) are self-monitoring before heading off to work, by taking their body temperatures every morning when they wake up (I was astonished to find that mine is only 35.5 degrees Celsius at that time of day).
Officially, Japan now has 899 cases of COVID-19, and 29 deaths. The testing rate is low (76 per million people), but higher than that of the U.S. (26 per million). I have a sneaking suspicion that the government doesn’t want to encourage widespread testing, as it may sap public morale. (They’re probably right on that one.) In the town where I live (population 33,000, located 65 kilometers from Tokyo), 1 case has been recorded. If extrapolated nationwide, that would be about 4,000 people. For the most part, people are carrying on cheerfully and trying to stay positive, but TV coverage of the virus is quite extensive. That’s all the news from over here at the moment.
On a positive note: it’s hard to be sure, but looking at the graphs for Italy here, it seems that the country is at or near a point of inflection. Certainly, the curve isn’t rising exponentially anymore. If Italy can weather this pandemic with fewer than 10,000 deaths, then it’s a fair bet to say that the U.S. will have fewer than 50,000. But I could be wrong.