The third wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic is in progress throughout the country, and the areas with large population such as Tokyo and Kanagawa, which are within a commuting distance of NIG, are in a serious situation. In Shizuoka Prefecture, due to the sporadic cluster infections and the recent increase in untraceable cases, the prefecture’s alert level was raised again to “Level 4” (Require caution within the prefecture / Require caution outside the prefecture) on November 20.
The infection situation of the novel coronavirus is unpredictable, and is apt to change dramatically in a short period of time. The recent worldwide research revealed new knowledge on characteristics of this particular virus. We will occasionally make a decision based on such new scientific knowledge, the latest infection situation, and requests from the central government and Shizuoka prefectural government. We also keep mindful of infection prevention and try to act for minimizing the risk of being infected.
The operation is carried out by giving the utmost consideration to the prevention of the spread of infection. Working from home is strongly recommended to restrain occurrence of a cluster at NIG. Meetings should be conducted online as much as possible. Commuters using public transportation opt for staggered commuting hours. As a general rule, commuters using public transportation for 30 minutes and longer and commuters from the municipalities where the spread of infection is remarkably observed (due to occurrence of cluster infection, and so on) should work from home. When it is necessary to use public transportation, we make sure that infection control measures (including air ventilation) are appropriately taken by public transportation companies. If they fail to take sufficient measures, we do not risk taking that train (bus).
We prioritize the health of students, faculty and staff, and the prevention of infection to others. Individual circumstances of each student should be considered as much as possible. Lectures should be online as a general rule, but face-to-face classes can be conducted if need arises. When conducting face-to-face lectures, we conform to the guidelines in “ Conference”. Research guidance and laboratory meetings should be conducted online as much as possible. The use of on-site welfare facilities is permitted. We make sure to take precautions against infection when using them.
Meetings should be online as a general rule. When having face-to-face meetings through unavoidable circumstances, larger rooms are used to avoid the three conditions of “poor ventilation” “intensive crowds” and “close social distance”, and meeting rooms are thoroughly ventilated by opening windows and doors.
As a general rule, business trips and out-of-office work are prohibited. If it is necessary to make a business trip or to engage in out-of-office work through unavoidable circumstances, we will reduce opportunities for human contact by avoiding eating out while on a business trip and working from home after returning home. When making an overseas business trip from necessity, we may go only to the areas (countries) which meet both following requirements: (1) No immigration restrictions / activity restrictions are placed on visitors from Japan. (2) The areas are categorized as “Level 1” (Exercise caution) based on “Overseas Travel Safety Information (Infectious Disease Level)” issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
As a general rule, visitors are prohibited. If it is necessary to accept visitors, we ask visitors to monitor their health conditions for the period preceding their visit to NIG and during their visit. We also ask for their cooperation in wearing masks and disinfecting hands when entering our facilities. Besides, the collaborative research and research meetings with visitors from outside are basically suspended. When we conduct them out of necessity, we ask visitors to take the above-mentioned precautions against the spread of infection.
One of the characteristics of this virus is that many of the infected people are entirely asymptomatic although contagious, and infected individuals can spread the virus prior to showing symptoms. In order to prevent the spread of infectious disease, we should keep the following in mind: “Do not spread the virus to others”, “Try not to be infected with the virus”, and “We may already have been infected with the virus”. It is important to take the infection control measures such as wearing masks and to keep monitoring our health every day.
The virus enters our body through the mouth, nose or eyes including by way of our hands (contagious infection). It is meaningful that we practice frequent handwashing on the assumption that the virus could be present anywhere. The virus also spreads through airborne droplets by coughing and speaking (droplet infection).
When the air temperature decreases, water evaporates from the airborne droplets. In the end, the lightweight droplets keep drifting in the form of aerosol particles for a prolonged time. Besides, we tend to feel reluctant to ventilate the room because of the low temperature in winter. Please keep in mind that an enclosed space with poor ventilation increases the risk of cluster infection. Frequent ventilation of the rooms is effective to reduce the infectious risk.
Director-General (Head of the Department of Genetics)
National Institute of Genetics
December 1, 2020