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As governments dither, authority is challenged

  • by JW

A clear pattern of response is being played out by most governments: denial, fumbling and, eventually, lockdown.

In parallel, political narratives and cultural norms are being challenged at a profound level.


There’s been a bit of an overreaction from the UK government today:

A report in the Sunday Times newspaper quoted one unnamed Downing Street adviser saying: “There’s no way you’re at war if your PM isn’t there.” Asked about the report on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Gove said some parts of it were “off beam” and added: “It is grotesque, the idea that our prime minister should be portrayed as not caring about this.”

‘Grotesque’ to say Boris Johnson sleepwalked into crisis, says Gove |


But this does seem to be a pattern of how governments generally have reacted – with the exception of Germany and the East Asian democracies:

London (CNN) Like a line of dominoes, country after country has been shut down by the novel coronavirus. Despite signs the threat was making its way across the globe, there was a clear pattern of response in many parts of the world — denial, fumbling and, eventually, lockdown.

As governments fumbled their coronavirus response, these four got it right. Here’s how. |


Despite today’s latest from Russia:

Putin says coronavirus situation is under full control in Russia |

…reality seems to be catching up:

Russia’s growing coronavirus outbreak and its challenge to Vladimir Putin, explained |

In Russia, Health Services Struggle As Exasperation Grows Over Coronavirus Aid Abroad |

Coronavirus Propaganda a Problem for the Kremlin, Not a Ploy |


Meanwhile, China isn’t doing too well either, as reported today:

From the deplorable treatment of African citizens in southern China to the export of faulty medical equipment, or the official endorsement of conspiracy theories blaming the US military for the outbreak, most of the Communist party’s efforts to control the international narrative have backfired.

Why China is losing the coronavirus narrative |

Coronavirus: China outbreak city Wuhan raises death toll by 50% |

China’s Coronavirus Battle Is Waning. Its Propaganda Fight Is Not. |

China’s deadly legacy: The coronavirus cover-up was one of the most grotesque deceptions by a totalitarian government ever – now Beijing will use the pandemic it sparked to help achieve its goal as No1 world superpower |


And in Japan, after a period of relative quiet, things are suddenly getting very bad, also in today’s latest news:

Coronavirus: Japan doctors warn of health system ‘break down’ as cases surge |

There has certainly been the same pattern of ‘denial and fumbling’ as seen elsewhere:

Japan’s PM admits coronavirus was allowed to spread after he failed to introduce lockdown ahead of three-day weekend as he faces criticism for distributing small masks and slow response |


A key challenge for many Japanese is working from home.

A fortnight ago, the government was unwilling to take the lead:

Even in the coronavirus pandemic, the Japanese won’t work from home until Shinzo Abe makes them |

Now that it has, people are still very uncomfortable:

Coronavirus: Japan’s employees are working from home, but stress has followed them |

This has revealed deep-seated social and cultural issues:

a) “a country celebrated for innovation has been found wanting by the new reality of remote working”:

How coronavirus exposed Japan’s low-tech blind spot |

and b) “the social stigma attached to deviating from the salaryman stereotype of the suited-up office worker who proves his dedication by spending long hours at his desk.”:

Coronavirus breaks the mold for telework in office-bound Japan |


This is the conclusion from an excellent piece from the Japenese recruitment agency Izanau:


Why Can’t Japan Work From Home?

The coronavirus is exposing how Japan is unable to work from home even in a crisis.

With COVID-19 turning the world and Japan Inc upside-down, adaptation is the only option. Reports from April show that now 26% of mid to small sized companies that never considered telework before have implemented it for their employees and commuter traffic is down in all the big cities. There is much discussion on the internet about what to do about the “hanko problem,” and real estate companies are offering short term rentals to people so that they can “get away” from their spouse and/or family and prevent a corona divorce. But unfortunately resistance is still strong. As culturally grounded as Japan is, its biggest fear is that change of any kind will water down what it means to be Japanese.

One can only hope that the fax machine and paper based processes will go the way of the dinosaur but even if it doesn’t, the long list of excuses that prevented telework up to now have lost all meaning. When it needed to be done, even Japan found a way, so there is no going back now.

Why Can’t Japan Work From Home? |