All national papers took up the results of a simulation presented at a meeting of the Health Ministry coronavirus advisory board on Wednesday showing that the state of emergency may have to be reinstated for Tokyo in late July on account of the steady spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which was first detected in India. The simulation reportedly found that even if the impact of the Delta strain is “modest” and there is only a 10% increase in the number of people out and about after the state of emergency is lifted, the number of cases is still likely to increase to about 1,000 per day in Tokyo by late July or early August. If the variant’s impact is “large,” the number of new cases per day may top 1,000 as early as the beginning of next month. Infectious disease experts on the board reportedly voiced strong apprehension about the rapid increase in people’s mobility in Tokyo over the past few weeks, warning that vaccination may not result in an immediate drop in new infections.
In a related story, Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is paying greater attention to the spread of the Delta strain in the belief that it will soon replace the Alpha strain first identified in the UK, which has been predominant in Japan for the past few months. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases has instructed regional health centers and commercial labs to stop screening for the Alpha strain when examining virus samples collected from patients and carriers so testing resources can be concentrated on detecting the Delta strain.
The business daily separately wrote that a large number of teenagers and children have contracted the virus nationwide during the fourth wave of the pandemic, attributing this to the spread of the UK variant. In response to an increase in the number of school closures, which were rare during the second and third waves, some municipalities have reportedly moved to vaccinate teachers and daycare staff quickly along with the elderly.