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Coronavirus

Japan to suffer 400,000 coronavirus deaths if no action: estimate

Reducing human contact by 80% can contain virus in month, response team says

A staff member of the Tokyo metropolitan government calls for people to stay home in Tokyo on April 14.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan warned that the new coronavirus outbreak will cause 850,000 seriously sick patients and half of them may die if no measures are taken to reduce human-to-human contact.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's cluster response team, made up of researchers from universities and government agencies, unveiled the estimate on Wednesday.

Hiroshi Nishiura, a member of the cluster response team and a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Hokkaido University, said the figures cover those who need respiratory management using an artificial respirator or treatment in an intensive care unit.

The calculation is based on overseas outbreaks and assumes that each virus carrier infects an average of 2.5 people. If no measures, such as requests to stay home, are taken, the number of seriously ill patients comes to about 201,300 for those aged 15 to 64, and about 652,000 for those over the age of 65.

The governors of Japan's big urban centers have asked residents to stay home, and many companies have instituted telecommuting programs.

According to the estimate, 49% of seriously ill patients will die if no measures are taken. Professor Nishiura has not given the death toll, but a simple calculation shows about 418,000 deaths.

Nishiura said the figure "assumes that no measures are taken against the new coronavirus" and that "an epidemic can be stopped if contact is greatly restricted."

He said reducing contact between people by about 80% would contain the epidemic in about a month.

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