Make all efforts to prevent rapid expansion of coronavirus infections

With novel coronavirus cases starting to increase, some experts have said Japan is already at the start of a seventh wave of infections. It is important to take thorough measures now, to prevent a surge in cases.

The daily number of new cases has remained almost unchanged in urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture, but regional areas are clearly seeing increases. Prefectures including Akita, Niigata and Miyazaki set new record highs this month.

As cases have remained relatively few in regional areas so far, the level of immunity acquired among residents there is believed to differ from that in urban areas. Growth in the number of infections in regional areas has also been triggered by BA.2, as this more contagious omicron subvariant is replacing the previously dominant one nationwide, according to experts.

Cases are particularly increasing among people aged 10 to 29, and many younger people have contracted the virus while spending time at eateries. With the start of the new fiscal and academic year this month, people have more opportunities to come in contact with others as they start their career or new school life, among other events. It is hoped that every member of the public will pay attention to measures against infections, such as avoiding dining in large groups.

Local governments must make renewed efforts to strengthen their testing systems, to detect and isolate infected people as soon as possible.

The percentage of people who have received a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine remains low, at just over 40% of the population. The administration of booster shots is lagging among those aged 10 to 29, even though there are many cases within this age group.

The government said it will provide universities and vocational schools with subsidies to cover transportation and payroll costs for using buses and other means to take students to and from mass vaccination sites set up by local governments. It is important to seek young people’s understanding by carefully explaining how important it is to receive shots and what the benefits are.

The elderly are more likely to become seriously ill if they contract the omicron variant. During the sixth wave, mass infections were found at many elderly care facilities. In addition to thoroughly testing residents and staff at these facilities, it is also necessary to make all possible preparations in case infections spread there.

The central government this month called for prefectural governments to establish a system that would allow doctors to visit infected people at all elderly care facilities.

In some areas, doctors visit elderly care facilities to administer drugs to infected patients, thus reducing the number of people who need to be hospitalized. However, some areas find it difficult to take this approach. There is an urgent need to secure doctors and drugs to ensure that appropriate treatments can be provided at elderly care facilities.

Border control measures for people entering Japan through airports and other facilities will be relaxed from Sunday, with the daily upper limit to be raised to 10,000 from 7,000. The government said this measure is aimed at allowing the entry of foreign students who want to start studying in Japan from this spring.

It is hoped that the schools that are accepting such students will provide them with detailed support, such as keeping in contact with them and helping them visit medical institutions if they feel sick.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 9, 2022)