By Roy Mabasa
With the low number of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) fatalities in Japan in the past several weeks, the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo has re-opened its doors to the public under the “new normal,” offering passport and other consular services and putting in place protocols to ensure everyone’s health and safety.
“We made improvements and changes to our operations to balance protecting the Filipino community’s health with ensuring that we provide public service as efficiently as possible,” said Philippine Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Robespierre Bolivar, who led a team in preparing and implementing the embassy’s COVID-19 Risk Reduction and Management Plan.
Under the “new normal” operations, Bolivar said all consular services are by appointment only to ensure proper social distancing in the consular waiting area. All Embassy personnel, clients, and visitors will also undergo health checks before entering the building.
Also, all persons are required to wear facemasks and observe coughing etiquette and social distancing while inside the embassy premises.
To prevent crowding, applicants, except those who require assistance, are requested to come to the Embassy without any accompanying person.
The Embassy also adopted teleworking and flexi-time arrangements and has been conducting meetings using online platforms, including videoconferencing.
According to the online COVID-19 monitoring platform Worldometer, Japan has had 17,382 confirmed cases with 924 fatalities, one of the lowest death rates in the world.
While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lauded what he described Japan’s “undefined model,” experts attributed their success to people’s ‘higher public health consciousness, moral values, and sense of solidarity to overcome adversity.’