Return to the basics of infection control measures

The coronavirus is spreading again. The nation must brace itself anew and strictly observe basic countermeasures.

The number of new infections nationwide doubled in a week to more than 47,000 on July 7. Cases have increased rapidly in such prefectures as Kumamoto and Okinawa, in addition to Tokyo and Osaka, indicating a countrywide surge.

The resurgence is partly due to an increase in cases of the new omicron subvariant BA.5, which is said to be more contagious than previous variants. However, there have been no reports of an increase in the severity of symptoms.

The government and experts should make efforts to disseminate information on the characteristics of BA.5 and effective infection prevention measures.

The public mood for self-restraint has eased over time since the lifting of states of emergency and quasi-emergency priority measures to prevent the spread of the virus. It is important to check once again at workplaces and homes whether basic infection control measures are being taken, such as ventilating rooms and wearing masks while talking.

Most of the people who have been infected recently are in younger generations. More than 90% of people aged 70 and older have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine, but the figure has not reached 50% for people in their 20s and 30s. As immunity declines over time after vaccination, booster shots must be further promoted and the rollout of the fourth round of jabs for elderly people should be expedited.

The unusually early end of the rainy season has brought scorching summer temperatures, and as a result, the number of heatstroke patients is rapidly increasing. Since the symptoms of heatstroke are similar to those of the coronavirus, such as fever and fatigue, local governments and medical institutions should prepare antigen tests so that they will be able to quickly distinguish between coronavirus and heatstroke patients.

In Tokyo and other areas, higher numbers of people suspected of having heatstroke have been taken to hospital by ambulance than in previous years. If the number of people infected with the coronavirus continues to increase at this rate, the number of seriously ill people will increase, which could strain medical care services and make it difficult to treat patients at medical institutions.

It is important to wear masks when necessary, but in order to prevent heatstroke, people should take them off when they can keep a distance from others outside in hot weather. Local governments need to secure hospital beds and establish a system to provide medical care services according to the infection situation in their communities.

The summer vacation season is coming soon. The central government is reportedly considering postponing the launch of its nationwide campaign to boost tourism. It is important to look closely at the infection situation in each region and find an appropriate time to start the campaign.

Some people may be planning to go on a tour or return to their hometowns. It is a time of year when there are more opportunities for gatherings and long-distance travel. Doing what you can, such as avoiding dining in large gatherings where the risk of infection is high, is a step toward preventing further spread of infection.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 8, 2022)