TOKYO — The chairperson of an expert panel advising Japan’s health ministry on measures against coronavirus infections said that while the number of infected people continues to decrease nationwide, the fall is gradual and “quite different from the convergence phase of the fifth wave last year,” and urged caution because “there is a possibility that numbers may start to rise again.”
The Japanese government will decide as early as March 17 on future response for the 18 prefectures where COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency measures are set to expire on March 21. According to the advisory board’s assessment of the infection situation, 14 of the 18 prefectures saw a decrease in the number of new cases compared to last week. On the other hand, five of the 13 prefectures that lifted their quasi-emergency measures on March 6 saw an increase compared to the week before.
At a news conference on the evening of March 15, the chairman of the advisory board, Takaji Wakita, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, urged caution, saying that in addition to spring break and the change of the fiscal year, a new strain of the highly infectious omicron subvariant BA.2 could lead to a renewed increase.
The number of infected people in Okinawa Prefecture, where quasi-emergency measures were lifted earlier in February, also decreased overall compared to last week, with only a rise in infections among those aged 10-19. It was reported that several clusters were confirmed at graduation parties and graduation trips for high school seniors and new cases of infections among 18-year-olds were prominently high. The advisory board stated that thorough countermeasures were necessary.
(Japanese original by Ai Yokota, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)