Preventive Measures Must Not Cease Even after Downgrade

The number of people becoming infected with the novel coronavirus is rising anew. In some areas, the medical system is becoming strained. Reviews should be conducted to ensure there is no laxness in preventive measures.

Coronavirus cases have tripled since May, when COVID-19 was downgraded to Category V under the Infectious Diseases Law. The currently prevalent omicron variant, which differs from that of last winter’s “eighth wave” of infections, is said to more efficient at sidestepping immune systems.

Some medical professionals say the nation is now in the grip of a “ninth wave.” COVID-19’s reclassification does not mean that the disease has disappeared. It is important to remember that the condition should be treated with caution, especially among elderly people and those with preexisting medical conditions.

Okinawa Prefecture currently has a large number of infected people, and the occupancy rate for hospital beds secured to treat COVID-19 has already exceeded 70%.

Following the shift to Category V, hospitals have been coordinating the hospitalization process themselves. However, patients have tended to become concentrated at certain facilities. Even after sufferers’ symptoms have been alleviated, many are unable to transfer to other facilities, increasing the burden on frontline hospitals. When medical services experience strain, it should be local governments that provide support rather than medical institutions.

In the past, infections have surged in Okinawa Prefecture before spreading to other areas. Prefectures across the nation must reassess their medical systems and prepare for a surge in infections.

With the increase in direct contact between people, there has been a conspicuous uptick in other infectious diseases, too. Among children, the herpangina virus — responsible for typical summer colds — and respiratory syncytial (RS) virus infections are becoming increasingly prevalent.

It is important for each individual to take preventive measures against contagious maladies.

Those who develop symptoms such as fever and coughing should rest and seek out medical care. If people must venture out in public, mask-wearing is effective. It is also recommended to visit drugstores to stock up on COVID-19 test kits and fever-reducing medicines.

Basic measures such as room ventilation and frequent handwashing should be thoroughly implemented. It is also crucial to wear masks when around elderly people. Furthermore, measures must be taken at elderly care facilities and hospitals to stave off potential cluster infections.

With the summer vacation approaching, many people are likely planning to travel or return to their hometowns. When going out, basic anti-infection practice should be followed.

Prior to COVID’s downgrade, infection numbers were announced on a daily basis. Now, however, weekly announcements are made at fixed-point medical institutions and caution has been waning because the actual infection situation is unclear.

The government should consider issuing information that people can use to guide judgments, similar to the alerts and warnings used to inform the public about influenza.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 11, 2023)