18 Mar 2020

COVID-19: Update Mar 18, 2020

There have been no cases of COVID-19 in our community and Okinawa remains one of the least affected parts of Asia with only three confirmed infections and effective containment measures. OIST is COVID-19 free and we have taken important steps to help keep it that way. Maintaining an infection free campus requires sustained commitment by everyone living and working at OIST. Infection prevention measures, and making changes to our business and travel, help ensure that we have done all we can to minimize risk to the organization and community, and avoid serious disruption to our work and study.

Therefore - in response to national guidelines and the international spread of COVID-19 coronavirus - OIST is now adopting the following measures:

  • Several weeks ago we cancelled or postponed general visits to OIST, including school tours, community visits, delegations, conferences and workshops, and cultural events open to the general public. This step is in force until at least April 29 with events beyond that date under review.
  • International trips to OIST – permitted only in exceptional circumstances – now require essential business visitors and returning members of staff (and their households) to ‘home quarantine’ off-campus for a period of fourteen days.
  • All overseas travel by OIST staff has been strongly discouraged and can occur only in exceptional circumstances until further notice. OIST will cover research unit or divisional costs incurred by cancellation of overseas business travel for staff or business guests.
  • OIST community members (staff, their families and all household members) returning to OIST from overseas, or guests visiting OIST staff from abroad, are required to ‘home quarantine’ for fourteen days.
  •  'Home quarantine’ means living separately from the OIST community to the fullest possible extent and avoiding any unnecessary contact until your health status is clear. People are instructed not come into buildings and offices on campus. Our staff can undertake home working where agreed with their manager. Friends or colleagues have been asked to assist with buying food and other essentials or pharmacy supplies. Data shows that COVID-19 has an especially serious impact on older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions. People in these categories have been advised to exercise particular care and avoid public spaces.

We have also taken extra measures in relation to travel within Japan. Staff are asked to avoid national travel other than absolutely essential business trips. Discussions with Ministries and the Cabinet Office, which have to be undertaken in Tokyo, will continue under close review. OIST staff and community members who have traveled outside of Okinawa to other parts of Japan have been required to monitor their health for fourteen days. If anyone experiences a fever of 37.5 degrees or more or has cold symptoms such as coughing they are told to refrain from going to work and seek medical advice.

OIST staff should, until otherwise advised, not travel for scientific talks, seminars, regular meetings or peer engagement events – all of these, wherever possible, should be fulfilled virtually.

Healthcare and infection prevention advice is being repeated often: frequent and proper hand washing; use of disinfectant gels and wipes; and covering your mouth and nose with a handkerchief, cloth or sleeve when coughing all help to contain the spread of viruses.

This is a fast-moving situation, we are grateful for the patience and understanding of our staff, community and international scientific and business partners at this challenging time.

We are monitoring the situation closely and will update you with any changes to our advice. If necessary we will of course escalate our response. Currently OIST is in a better position than many institutions around the world to continue its research and teaching operations at a reasonable level, and – with your help -- we are doing everything possible to maintain this.


For press inquiries, please contact media@oist.jp.