Japan’s daily COVID-19 cases increase from 534 to 13,244 in 12 days
The number of daily COVID-19 cases in Japan was under 100 at the beginning of December. However, the figure exceeded 10,000 per day this year. What happened in Japan, which seemed to be becoming a model country for COVID-19 prevention?
According to NHK, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in the country steeply rose from 534 on January 1, 1,265 on January 4, 6,204 on January 7, to 13,244 on Wednesday. It has been four months since the figure exceeded 10,000 per day since September 9.
Japanese medical experts point to three major reasons for the increase.
The first reason is the Omicron variant that is highly infectious. “About 90 percent of new COVID-19 cases in Tokyo are suspected to be caused by the Omicron variant,” Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike said on Wednesday during a national meeting of governors. Tokyo had 2,198 new cases on Wednesday. Community infections have practically begun. In addition, there are more people traveling across the country for the holiday season, and mass infections took place due to poor disease control measures in the United States Forces Japan base.
Despite an increase in new cases, the Japanese government is careful to declare a state of emergency that restricts citizens’ behavior. When a state of emergency was declared in Tokyo on July 12 last year, the number of new daily cases was 1,505 across the country, which is about 10 percent of the current level. “The Japanese government is taking a passive stance to declare a state of emergency as the number of severe patients is relatively small,” said a diplomatic source well-aware of the Japanese government’s affairs.
When the number of new daily cases rose over 10,000 on July 29, the number of patients with serious symptoms was 539. As of Wednesday, there are only 105 cases with such symptoms. In Tokyo, there are four patients with severe symptoms and only 0.8 percent of sickbeds for serious patients are being used. “Tokyo is exploring an option to take disease control measures and maintain social activities at the same time considering the characteristic of the Omicron variant, which tends to cause less serious symptoms,” said Mainichi Shimbun on Thursday.
If the number of new cases continues to rise sharply, things may change. Under such a circumstance, the number of patients with serious symptoms will also increase. A low rate of booster shots, which began on December 1, at 0.8 percent as of Wednesday may worsen the situation. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has a high approval rating now thanks to his quick response but it may go down if new patients pile up.