Government must devise effective measures to curb coronavirus cases

Simply repeating the same measures as before will not help improve the situation. The government should implement measures that will ensure a reduction in the number of coronavirus cases, which have remained high.

Of the 31 prefectures in which quasi-emergency priority measures are being applied, the government has decided to extend the period through March 21 in 18 prefectures, including Tokyo, Aichi and Osaka. The government plans to end the measures in the remaining 13 prefectures on Sunday.

The number of coronavirus cases is not decreasing as expected. Many patients are being hospitalized, particularly elderly people, and the occupancy of hospital beds secured for COVID-19 patients is more than 50% in many regions. In Okinawa Prefecture, where the priority measures have ended, cases have been increasing again.

To solve hospital bed shortages, it is important to promote booster shots among elderly people, who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill. While the number of elderly people who have been vaccinated is increasing nationwide, the figure still stands at less than 70%.

Many cases of cluster infections have been reported at elderly care facilities with unvaccinated residents. Vaccinations should be accelerated to prevent people from becoming seriously ill.

Starting in March, the rollout of booster shots for all adults is also fully getting underway. Experts believe the more people receive the vaccination, the more effective the vaccination campaign will be in curbing the spread of infections. The inoculation rate in Japan is lower than overseas. It is hoped that vaccines will be made available to younger generations as soon as possible.

The omicron variant spreads fast, and therefore it has been pointed out that by the time close contacts have been identified, they have often already spread the virus to others.

At hospitals, many staff have been forced to miss work because they or their family members have become close contacts. In some day care centers for children, staff are working hard to identify close contacts on behalf of public health centers, increasing the burden on personnel.

Shouldn’t the government review the categorization of close contacts among other things?

The government has said it expects to secure more than 2 million antigen test kits a day, which can quickly detect whether a person is infected. It is necessary to consider measures to alleviate the burden on society, such as thoroughly offering close contacts tests and exempting them from self-isolating if they test negative.

In areas where priority measures are in place, some schools have postponed field trips and overnight activities among other things. Children gain a lot through such experiences. It is essential for local governments to devise ways to realize these events while taking measures to prevent infections.

With the end of the school year and the start of the new business year approaching, there will be more opportunities for people to get together, such as spring vacation, graduation events and entering employment. It is important to prevent a resurgence of the sixth wave by taking measures to prevent infection, such as refraining from having meals with large groups of people you do not ordinarily see.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 5, 2022.