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 these circumstances, where 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, we had recruited a total of 11,342 respondents, aged from 20 to 64 years. About 85% reported practising the social distancing recommended by the government. More females than males and more older than younger participants are supportive of practicing social distancing. Frequent handwashing is conducted by 86 percent of all, 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%). Information from the central and local governments, received by 60% of the participants, was deemed trustworthy by 50%. However, the results also showed that about 20% 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, with 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 behavioral changes using various means to reach and influence them.
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