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Editorial: Japan needs flexible response as omicron community spread confirmed

  • December 24, 2021
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

Community transmission of the coronavirus’s omicron variant has been confirmed in Osaka Prefecture and elsewhere in Japan. The cases include people with no recent history of travel overseas, for whom infection routes cannot be traced.


Compared to other variants up to now, the omicron variant is said to be highly infectious. Thorough prevention measures must be taken in anticipation of a widespread outbreak.


Much is still unknown about the variant, including whether it easily causes serious cases of COVID-19. For the time being, it’s important that border controls be maintained while measures to prevent the spread of the virus are taken thoroughly in areas where infections have been confirmed.


Experts have said that in the event someone tests positive for the variant, subsequent testing should be widespread and not limited to people who are deemed to have had close contact with the infected. It’s particularly important that a swift response is taken in cases in places where infection risks are high, such as care homes for elderly people.


The year-end and New Year’s period is a time for many events, dinners and trips to family homes which make it easy for the virus to spread. Regarding what points people should be careful of, the government needs to issue clear messages to the people.


Soon there will be a rise in people whose two-time vaccinations are beginning to lose their effect. Promotion of third shots is also important. First, steady progress must be made on booster shots for elderly people.


Inspections of the medical system in preparation for a sudden surge in infections are also necessary.


The government has increased the number of hospital beds to the point that 37,000 patients nationally will be able to be hospitalized. Including obtaining medical workers, confirming arrangements to accept them speedily is important.


If accommodation facilities for people with no or light COVID-19 symptoms become full, it is possible that more individuals will be forced to recover at home. This past summer, people whose conditions have taken a turn for the worse died while being unable to be received by hospitals, and this cannot be repeated.


Authorities have claimed that a framework in which private practitioners and nurses bring care to people recovering at home has been established, but this won’t be effective unless public health centers and other local government bodies work with such medical professionals.


Of concern are assertions that some antibody medications with potency against the delta variant are of limited efficacy against omicron. There are fears it may have an effect on treatments.


If pressure on hospital beds is anticipated, there can be no hesitation in strengthening countermeasures including restrictions on people’s movements. Depending on the infection situation in the future, there could be a need to review how vaccine certification and other documentation is used.


The views of experts are essential in quelling infections. The government’s subcommittee on the coronavirus response should meet urgently to prepare a system that can react fast.

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