Concerns about the 7th wave of COVID-19 in Japan

The number of new cases is increasing rapidly

More than 20 out of 47 prefectures in Japan recorded a new record number of new cases per day, including Aichi, Osaka, Hyogo and Okinawa prefectures.

Tokyo capital recorded 20,401 new cases, surpassing 20,000 for the first time since early February this year. Osaka Prefecture recorded a new record number of 21,976 cases. Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo also recorded a record 11,443 cases, surpassing 10,000 for the first time.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Japan remained relatively low until mid-June, before starting to increase sharply recently due to the rapid spread of the BA.5 subline of the Omicron variant. country. Last week, the Japanese Government’s top COVID-19 adviser, Mr. Shigeru Omi, confirmed that the country had entered the 7th wave of the epidemic.

However, speaking at a press conference on July 20, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno reiterated that the government will not impose travel restrictions.

What is the danger from the 7th epidemic wave?

Concerns about the 7th wave of the COVID-19 epidemic in Japan - Photo 1.

Intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients are being filled. Japan Times photo

The rapidly increasing number of infections has raised concerns about problems that were already present in the previous 6th outbreak in Japan, namely the overcrowding of patients with fever symptoms. in hospitals, leading to a lack of reception places, greatly affecting patients with common diseases. In addition, the lack of testing kits and the provision of 7-day isolation for close contacts may hinder socio-economic activities that are gradually returning to normal.

According to a clinic in the Shinjuku district in Tokyo, the number of patients with fever symptoms visiting the clinic has increased sharply in recent weeks. On average, the clinic receives around 30 patients, and more than half of them are confirmed to have COVID-19. The proportion of patients under 10 years of age and elderly patients is increasing. The clinic’s representative said that if the number of patients with fever visiting the clinic increases further, the clinic will fall into overcrowding. With a structure of only one doctor, to ensure the treatment of patients who do not have COVID-19, the clinic is discussing refusing to accept new patients with fever symptoms. Besides, another concern is that the stock of COVID-19 rapid test kits is dwindling and may fall into shortage if patients increase.

Another clinic in Tokyo’s Shibuya district also reported a spike in the number of patients with fever symptoms visiting since the middle of last week. In which, most of them are high school students and prominent cases are not received by other clinics. The clinic’s representative said that it is trying to receive as many patients as possible, however, the clinic’s capacity is also limited.

Regarding the hospital bed situation, at Nihon University’s Itabashi hospital, which accepts COVID-19 patients with moderate or higher symptoms and needing oxygen, the rate of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has decreased. increased since last week and as of July 13, 19 of the 60 beds were filled with patients. The hospital director said the current epidemic level is relatively serious and the current rate of severe patients is equivalent to the previous 6th wave of the epidemic.

According to the estimate of Professor Akimasa Hirata of Nagoya Industrial University, with the assumption that the infectivity of the BA.5 strain that spreads mainly now is 1.3 times higher than that of the previous variant BA.2 and The immune effect after 4-6 months of vaccination of the COVID-19 vaccine is reduced to 50%, the number of new cases in Tokyo alone will peak at 18,000 by the end of July 2022 and will maintain the number of cases. New cases per day about 10,000 cases by the end of September 2022. The number of deaths from COVID-19 in Tokyo may increase to 25 cases/day by mid-August 2022. According to Professor Hirata, the cause of the 7th infection in Japan this time is the outbreak of the BA.5 variant since the end of June 2022, plus the hot weather in the summer makes the possibility reduced air circulation.

Japan’s health system is at risk of being overwhelmed

Concerns about the 7th wave of the COVID-19 epidemic in Japan - Photo 2.

People are required to wear masks in public to reduce the risk of infection. Japan Times photo

The spike in new cases of COVID-19 is raising concerns about the effects on routine medical treatment and emergencies requiring urgent medical care, as well. like what happened in the 6th epidemic wave before. Besides the disease, there are also experts who voiced concern about the increased workload of medical centers, making outpatient health monitoring inadequate, leading to the risk of patients dying at home. Obviously, lessons from the 6th wave of the epidemic have been recorded, but it seems that the current Japanese government’s response measures are not enough.

Policies aimed at reducing the burden on health facilities are also causing concern. COVID-19 is classified as class 1 and 2 in the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases and requires continuous capture of all infected patients, which creates the risk of resource fragmentation and difficulty in concentrating response measures. dealing with patients at high risk of serious complications. Starting from June 2022, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has simplified the form of reporting patient information with COVID-19 for medical centers and medical examination facilities. with the goal of reducing the burden on these facilities in filling out symptom information. However, the reality is that many medical facilities cannot collect all the necessary information in health monitoring.

During the 6th epidemic wave in Japan, the increase in close contacts and forced isolation has caused a shortage of labor resources, especially the main workers. Currently, the regulation on the 7-day isolation for close contacts is still being maintained and this has caused concern to medical facilities and businesses. Health experts said that in the near future, it is inevitable that the Japanese government will discuss adjusting the isolation regulations for close contacts.

Speed ​​up the 4th dose of vaccine

Concerns about the 7th wave of the COVID-19 epidemic in Japan - Photo 3.

People over 60 years old are among the subjects receiving the 4th dose of COVID-19 vaccine free of charge. Nikkei Asia’s photo.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Welfare said that the COVID-19 vaccine vaccination service at convenience stores will start rolling out mainly in Hokkaido from July 26 and will open again. across Japan as of August 17. Currently, there are about 1,200 Seiko Mart brand stores registered to deploy this service in Hokkaido, Ibaraki and Saitama provinces.

To receive the vaccination certificate, Japanese people need a My Number identification card, with a few simple operations on specialized equipment and a fee of 120 yen, or about 0.8 USD. My Number is a personal identification card with a code of 12 personal identification numbers. The card is made of plastic, with an IC chip attached, on which is information about name, age, gender, photo and address.

The fact that people can carry out administrative procedures themselves at convenience stores near their homes will reduce the work burden for administrative agencies, and at the same time, the number of people using public transport will also decrease, contributing to preventing prevent the COVID-19 epidemic that is spreading rapidly in Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida affirmed that the government has not considered any measures to limit behavior such as declaring a state of emergency or applying key epidemic prevention measures, and called on the people to join hands to prevent the spread of the virus. prevent the spread of disease in the community, especially vaccination against COVID-19. The fourth injection will be extended to approximately 8 million healthcare workers and caregivers in aged care facilities from this week. He also called on young people to raise the awareness of protecting the community by getting the 3rd and 4th doses of vaccines, in the context that 80% of people under the age of 30 have completed the 2nd dose, but only less than 30% of them have been vaccinated. 3rd nose.

Currently, Japan is giving the 4th dose of COVID-19 vaccine free of charge to people over 60 years old and those over 18 years old but have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or obesity. The interval between the 3rd and 4th shots is at least 5 months. Japan is also expected to ask 47 prefectures to set up free COVID-19 testing sites at major train stations and airports from August 5-18. In addition, the Japanese government will postpone the plan to resume the domestic tourism stimulus program to prioritize the fight against the epidemic.

References: AFP, Reuters, NHK

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