Govt must present clear measures to fight the ongoing pandemic

In the absence of a definitive cure for COVID-19, how should the public overcome the rapid spread of novel coronavirus infections? The government should send concrete messages.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, at a meeting of experts, decided not to give emergency approval to Xocova, an oral medicine for the coronavirus developed by Shionogi & Co.

The emergency approval system was newly established in May, and the Xocova pill was the first medication to be subject to consideration under the system. Even in the middle of clinical trials, if the effectiveness of a drug can be estimated and deemed safe to use, the ministry can approve that drug temporarily. If a drug’s effectiveness cannot be confirmed by a certain deadline, the temporary approval will expire.

Xocova was found to be effective in reducing the amount of virus in a patient’s body in mid-stage clinical trials. However, its overall effect in improving 12 symptoms, such as fever and fatigue, has not yet been clarified at the current stage, according to the experts.

For this reason, a number of experts at the meeting commented that it would be difficult to use the drug in the field. The final results of the clinical trials are expected in November. The decision not to approve it may be appropriate.

The appearance of effective and easy-to-use oral medicines is still awaited. The decision this time is disappointing, but it is hoped that the company will continue to conduct clinical trials to confirm the effectiveness of the drug and aim to put it into practical use.

In the meantime, the number of infections continues to rise rapidly.

The number of new infections nationwide has exceeded 180,000 a day, setting a new record. In some areas, such as Okinawa and Kumamoto prefectures, a shortage of hospital beds has become a reality.

It is important not to stop economic activities, but if the rapid spread of the virus is left unchecked, such activities could be hindered even without deliberate restrictions on social activities.

There is a limit to leaving the situation up to individual infection control measures. Setting aside the appropriateness of imposing restrictions on activities, it is time for the government to provide concrete guidelines, such as on how to act in places where people are in close contact with each other, to prevent the spread of the virus.

It is also advisable for the central and local governments to propose effective measures, such as requiring the submission of vaccination certificates for large-scale events with large numbers of participants. It will be necessary to examine past measures against infection and promote highly effective steps.

Most infected people are in their 40s or younger. Among those in their 20s and 30s, the third vaccination rate remains low at around 50%. It is obvious that the vaccination rate will not increase solely by calling on people to recognize the necessity for vaccination.

In areas where the number of infected people is high or where hospital beds are scarce, it is essential to respond to the situation with the right emphasis on key points, such as independently implementing stronger measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 22, 2022)