If you think you might have COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, and you’re in Japan you might be confused about what to do. Read on to find out the things you need to do to take care of yourself and protect others around you.
How do I know if I have coronavirus?
Official advice from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare states that you need to seek medical assistance if you:
- Have cold symptoms; or
- A fever of 37.5°C or more for four days or more; or
- If you are feeling severely fatigued or weary; or
- You have shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Other symptoms can include persistent pain or pressure in your chest or bluish lips/face, in which case you need to immediately contact a public health centre (see further down in this article for more information) and inform them of your symptoms.
You must also call the public health centre, see below section for further details, if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above for two or more days and you:
- Are a senior citizen
- Have an underlying disease such as diabetes, heart failure or a respiratory disease;
- Receive dialysis
- Take immunosuppressant drugs or anticancer drugs
How do I know the difference between coronavirus and the common cold/flu, or hay fever?
There are overlaps between COVID-19 and the flu including: fever, fatigue, cough, body aches. However, if you have coronavirus or a bad flu, it’s likely that your symptoms are going to get worse over time. If you have a mild cold, you will likely recover with some rest.
If you develop symptoms after travelling or you have been in an area where there is an outbreak, then you need to seek medical advice and take measures to minimise the spread of illness.
Early coronavirus, flu and cold symptoms are very similar though, so if you feel your condition worsening and especially if you experience shortness of breath and/or you are considered more at-risk, you need to seek medical assistance.
Allergies, on the other hand, tend to be more localised and concentrate around your head. Symptoms include a runny nose and itchy eyes. Allergies also don’t normally cause fever, but coronavirus, the cold and flu do.
Note though, that symptoms of coronavirus vary widely amongst individuals so if you do have symptoms associated with coronavirus, please contact a public health centre as soon as possible.
What to do if you get sick
If you are sick and think you might have contracted the novel coronavirus, you need to call your nearest public health centre. Do this before you visit a hospital or doctor’s office, as they will tell you which one to go to, in order to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
If you do not speak Japanese, please call one of the multilingual hotlines set up across Japan: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/1019/
You can find lists of Tokyo’s public health centers here: https://www.tokyo-icc.jp/guide_eng/gov/02.html
Sapporo Public Health Centre: http://www.city.sapporo.jp/hokenjo/
The staff at the centre know which medical institutions are available for those with potential COVID-19 infections and will tell you which one to visit.
Please do not go to any other institution apart from the one you are introduced to.
In the meantime, stay at home and away from others as much as possible. When you visit the medical centre, wear a mask. Note that the cost of taking the coronavirus test will be covered by the National Health Insurance scheme.
If you are concerned about your health, or unsure about the situation or what to do, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We will do what we can to help.
Take preventative measures
If you are not feeling any symptoms of the novel coronavirus, there are still a few important things you can do to protect yourself and others around you.
Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. By now you will have heard all about needing to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and what songs you can sing to yourself while doing that. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Don’t touch your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth since you can transfer the virus to yourself by touching a contaminated surface and then proceeding to touch your face.
Cover your coughs and sneezes by sneezing and coughing into tissues. Immediately throw away those tissues. If you don’t have tissues, sneeze and cough into your bent elbow.
Avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing. Replace those greetings with a head nod, wave or another greeting where you don’t have to touch each other.
Visit the WHO website for more guidance.
Even if you are healthy, the best thing you can do is practise these precautions and avoid crowded places. This isn’t just for your own sake – it’s to protect others around you, too.
As always if you have any questions, please let us know and we will do what we can to help.