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  • Writer's pictureHirokazu Kobayashi

The social and scientific significance of the COVID-19 pandemic which has gone too far

Updated: May 20

Hirokazu Kobayashi

CEO, Green Insight Japan, Inc.

Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor, University of Shizuoka

It is uncertain how long it will be better to wear a mask in Japan, but there is no doubt that the end is near. The number of infections with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, peaked in February 2024, marking the 10th global and domestic wave. During this pandemic, the global death toll was 7 million, and the domestic death toll was just under 80,000. I want to express my condolences to the victims and their families and my respect for the medical personnel. Compared to past pandemics, the plague that spread between 1347 and 1352 is said to have killed 80 million people, mainly in Europe. The Spanish flu of 1918-1920 is estimated to have killed 100 million people worldwide. The number of deaths in Japan at that time is approximately 450,000. The number of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 is estimated to be 700 million worldwide and 40 million in Japan. This is a small number to achieve herd immunity, and it can be said that the RNA vaccine, based on the research of Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman, who were awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has made a significant contribution.

People were forced to maintain social activities while avoiding human contact, and existing internet and digital communication technologies were required to be further adapted. Online meetings and classes had already become popular, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. The development of technologies to prevent, detect, and treat SARS-CoV-2 infection is a pressing issue. Traditionally, papers were published after their content was peer-reviewed, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, papers have been published as preprints without being peer-reviewed. In addition, we have moved towards making the raw data public, eliminating the need to compile it into a paper. As a result, researchers are now being tested on their ability to extract what they want and what they want from a vast amount of information reliably. This trend is called "open science". Humans stand at the top of all living things on earth by communicating as a group. During this period, oral communication → handwritten characters → printing (Johannes Gutenberg's typography, 1439) → led to "digital revolution". Additionally, many tasks can be carried out online without people needing to travel, reducing dependence on transportation. Furthermore, mechanization using AI has accelerated at industrial production sites. Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought human society one step forward. This reform will be etched in human history as a significant turning point.

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