Ending state of emergency must not be allowed to cause new resurgence

The end of the current state of emergency will come just one month before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. A resurgence of coronavirus infections must be avoided by all possible means. Thorough measures need to be implemented with a sense of urgency.

The government has decided to end the state of emergency on Sunday in nine of the 10 prefectures where it had been in effect. Okinawa is the only one where the state of emergency will continue. In seven of the nine prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, emergency-level priority measures will be put in place until July 11, with restrictions to be gradually eased.

The number of new infections is on a downward trend, but more people are going out in some areas. It is essential to implement another set of infection prevention measures.

“It is imperative to prevent the spread of infections during the Games so that there will not be another spread of infections afterward,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference, referring to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Shigeru Omi, who heads the government’s subcommittee on measures against the novel coronavirus, is expected to propose infection prevention measures for the Olympics. Hosting the Games safely is an international pledge for Japan. It is hoped that the government will seriously consider the purpose of Omi’s proposals and implement effective prevention measures.

After a previous state of emergency ended in March, a fourth wave of infections arose within a few weeks. The British variant replacing the original form of the virus at the time is believed to have been a major factor behind the resurgence.

The reportedly more transmissible Indian variant is now gradually spreading in the nation. The government must exercise utmost vigilance and avoid repeating the same mistake.

Should the number of infections surge, the government must not hesitate to declare another state of emergency.

In areas where priority measures will be in effect, eating and drinking establishments that have put appropriate measures in place will be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages until 7 p.m., depending on the judgment of the governor.

Prefectural governments must establish a system, for example, to objectively certify eateries that are operating in accordance with guidelines so establishments that do not implement appropriate measures cannot take advantage of the situation and cause confusion.

The prime minister has positioned the COVID-19 vaccination as the game changer in infection prevention. It is reported that the capacity to vaccinate 1 million people per day is being established. Increasing the number of those inoculated at workplaces and universities is critical so that people aged 64 and under can receive the shots as soon as possible, following the vaccination of the elderly.

However, there have been cases in which residents cannot get vaccinated at mass vaccination venues set up by local governments or the Self-Defense Forces because they have not received vaccination vouchers from their municipalities. For inoculations at workplaces and other venues, vouchers can be submitted after the shots are received. It is necessary to adopt a similar practice elsewhere.

In some cases, medical workers are willing to help out at local government vaccination programs but are unable to make the necessary arrangements. To resolve the issue of a shortage of personnel administering shots, local governments should be innovative, such as by creating flexible vaccination schedules.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 18, 2021.