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Opinion
Gearoid Reidy

There Is No ‘Back to Normal’ After Covid

A Q&A with top Japanese virologist Hitoshi Oshitani about reopening tourism, future strains of Covid and the post-pandemic world.

Hitoshi Oshitani, the virologist who helped beat SARS and kept Japan’s Covid deaths among the lowest in the world.

Hitoshi Oshitani, the virologist who helped beat SARS and kept Japan’s Covid deaths among the lowest in the world.

Photographer: Shoko Takayasu/Bloomberg Economics

Japanese virologist Hitoshi Oshitani has an impressive record fighting pandemics. As one of the leading experts advising the government during Covid, he helped formulate a strategy that has kept deaths in the country with the world’s oldest population lower than any other developed nation, without resorting to lockdowns. Now, as the world clamors for Japan to reopen its borders, he’s urging caution. Perhaps it’s time to listen. 

“I don’t like the notion of ‘back to normal,’” Oshitani, a professor of virology at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, said in an interview in his Tokyo office. “That means going back to the pre-pandemic society. That pre-pandemic society is very, very fragile — for many risks, not just infectious disease.”