Omicron infections seen in 46% of cases in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Few pedestrians are seen on Kokusai-dori shopping street on Thursday in Naha, where omicron is believed to be quickly replacing other variants of the novel coronavirus.

Nearly half of the novel coronavirus infections reported nationwide in a recent seven-day period were believed to be omicron variant cases, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Thursday.

Among about 2,000 infected people nationwide who underwent PCR testing for the seven days through Jan. 2, the highly contagious variant was suspected in 46% of cases, the ministry said at a meeting of an advisory panel analyzing the infection situation.

The advisory body called for caution, saying the medical system could be placed under strain if the number of people infected with omicron surges, because such cases have now been confirmed in about 80% of all prefectures.

The ministry’s analysis indicated that omicron is replacing other forms of the virus mainly in western Japan.

By prefecture, Okinawa, which is facing another surge of new cases, saw the variant accounting for 73% of cases over the period. It was followed by Hiroshima with 75%, Yamaguchi with 71%, Kyoto with 64% and Osaka with 60%.

In addition, prefectures in urban areas had higher percentages of cases with the variant, such as Aichi with 72% and Chiba with 51%, according to the ministry.

At the meeting, the severity of COVID-19 symptoms in 675 people in Okinawa Prefecture, most of whom were believed to be infected with omicron, was reported. Of them, 92.3% have had no or mild symptoms, while 7.7% were moderately ill, and no one fell into serious condition.

An analysis of 50 people who were confirmed to be infected with omicron found that 72% developed fever of 37.5 C or higher, while 58% had coughing, 50% suffered fatigue and 44% complained sore throat. There were a smaller number of cases that reported difficulties in breathing or loss of taste.

Takaji Wakita, director general at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and chairperson of the advisory panel, said, “To prevent the further spread of omicron, members of the public are urged to refrain from going out if they don’t feel well even a little, such as when having mild fever or fatigue, and not to hesitate to visit a doctor and undergo testing.”