Time to reassess infection situation, switch to more effective measures

The novel coronavirus pandemic has reached a critical stage, with the number of newly infected people in Tokyo hitting a record high. It is necessary to further strengthen measures so that the current situation will not lead to a larger explosion of infections.

However, some factors have appeared that are different from the past. Isn’t it time to calmly assess the circumstances and switch to measures that meet the actual situation from a new perspective?

Young people are the majority of those infected, with people in their 30s or younger accounting for 70% of the total in Tokyo. The government’s repeated declarations of a state of emergency have actually reduced people’s sense of urgency. With the spread of the highly contagious delta coronavirus variant, a further expansion of the coronavirus is feared.

However, people aged 65 or older — the age bracket with the highest vaccination rates — account for only around 3% of the total number of those infected, their lowest share since the pandemic began. The total number of serious cases is about half of that seen in the third wave. The number of days when the death toll is zero is also increasing.

On the other hand, the number of people who are seriously ill is increasing among people in their 40s to 50s, and there are concerns that the situation of hospital beds will become tight. It is important to quarantine and treat these patients at the stage of mild symptoms so that they can leave medical institutions as early as possible.

An intravenous “antibody cocktail” has been approved to treat COVID-19 patients, mainly those aged 50 or older and those with preexisting conditions. Active use of this treatment is key to battling the coronavirus.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has secured 20 beds at hospitals in Tokyo to temporarily accept patients waiting for hospitalization and provide them with such basic treatment as administering oxygen. It should increase the number of hospital beds for that purpose to prepare for a further increase in infections.

It is also vital to expedite preparations for house calls by doctors for those receiving treatment at home, with the cooperation of general practitioners.

People in their 20s to 30s often make the facile assumption that even if they did become infected, their symptoms would be mild. However, they must not forget that there are cases in which the infection leads to severe illness or lingering aftereffects.

Some people hesitate to get vaccinated because they believe false rumors that stir up fear of vaccines. They should consult with doctors and think positively about getting vaccinated.

The most urgent thing is to promote vaccinations. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga negotiated directly with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and called on the drugmaker to deliver the vaccine ahead of the initial schedule. It is essential for the Japanese government to secure vaccines as soon as possible and smoothly supply them to local governments and workplaces.

Just repeatedly extending states of emergency and strengthening calls for self-restraint in people’s social activities every time infection numbers go up cannot be the basic solution.

It is advisable for the government to allow eating and drinking establishments that have taken adequate measures against the infection to serve alcohol to customers and provide financial support to them as well. It is necessary to implement measures with the correct emphasis on key points, such as introducing a system in which people who have gotten vaccinated or undergone coronavirus tests will be able to use such establishments on a priority basis.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 29, 2021.