The Japanese government instituted countermeasures against COVID-19, a pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus, in January 2020. Seeking “people's behavioral changes,” in which the government called on the public to take precautionary measures or exercise self-restraint, was one of the important strategies. The purpose of this study is to investigate how and from when Japanese citizens have changed their precautionary behavior under circumstances in which the government has only requested their cooperation. This study uses micro data from a cross-sectional survey conducted on an online platform of an online research company, based on quota sampling that is representative of the Japanese population. By the end of March 2020, a total of 11,342 respondents, aged from 20 to 64 years, were recruited. About 85 percent reported practising the social distancing measures recommended by the government including more females than males and more older than younger participants. Frequent handwashing is conducted by 86 percent of all participants, 92 percent of female, and 87.9 percent of over-40 participants. The most important event influencing these precautionary actions was the infection aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which occurred in early February 2020 (23 percent). Information from the central and local governments, received by 60 percent of the participants, was deemed trustworthy by 50 percent. However, the results also showed that about 20 percent of the participants were reluctant to implement proper prevention measures. The statistical analysis indicated that the typical characteristics of those people were male, younger (under 30 years old), unmarried, from lower-income households, a drinking or smoking habit, and a higher extraversion score. To prevent the spread of infection in Japan, it is imperative to address these individuals and encourage their behavioural changes using various means to reach and influence them.
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