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COVID reveals Japan's long history of poor crisis management

Lack of clear priorities and silo mentality undermine emergency response

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga looms over Tokyo's Kabukicho nightlife entertainment district on April 24. (Photo by Koji Uema)

TOKYO -- Japan has the most hospital beds per 1,000 people of any advanced economy, yet a new coronavirus wave has put the country's medical system under strain. Meanwhile, it has vaccinated the smallest share of its population among leading economies.

The cumulative death toll in Japan due to the coronavirus pandemic is about 11,000, a relatively small number compared to the U.S. and major European nations. However, Japan's current plight highlights not only a lack of medical preparedness but also deeper trouble with setting national priorities.

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