Table Speech

Well-being Under the COVID-19 Crisis

August 26, 2020

Mr. Kenichi Yoshida
Chairperson, Ishinkai Medical Corporation

 I run a psychiatric clinic together with my wife who is also a practicing psychiatrist. Besides, I have served as an occupational psychiatrist for a number of organizations both in the public and private sectors, including the House of Councilors and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Having diagnosed and treated many patients with physical and mental disorders, I have set my vocational mission to build a society where everyone can play an active role blessed with good health and happiness. Today, I wish to share my personal views on how the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic would reshape our society and our lives.

 Back in 2015, co-founder of Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates made a speech entitled “The next outbreak? We’re not ready” and gave a far-sighted warning: “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes. Part of the reason for this is that we’ve invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents, but very little in a system to stop epidemics. We’re not ready for the next epidemic.” While his speech concluded on a positive note “If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic,” the harsh reality in the present day throughout the world proves otherwise.

 The World Health Organization (WHO) adopted its Constitution in 1947 and defined “health” as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity.” Well-being is measured against our physical, mental and socio-economic conditions.

 Today, we are living under the COVID-19 crisis where this invisible virus goes rampant, threatening not only our healthcare systems but also restricting free movement and economic activities. One of the biggest challenges faced in the current crisis is how to sustain our economic activities while preventing the spread of the infection. We must admit that COVID-19 is very difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate in a few years. If so, “we should strengthen resilience to pandemics” by redefining the ways and roles we will be playing in the society and economy. I think we can declare our victory over the COVID-19 pandemic when we succeed in fulfilling a totally new definition of “well-being” as we move ahead in the New Normal.

 Japan is a developed country facing a number of serious challenges which call for institutional reforms across our social systems. I believe our country can play a critical role and lead the world by establishing a new definition of well-being derived from the experiences gained from the COVID-19 crisis.