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Second wave of coronavirus infections picking up with a vengeance

17 Comments

If you felt hopefully optimistic that Japan would be largely spared from the second wave of coronavirus infections that's been setting new records in Europe and North America, then look again. 

Shukan Bunshun (Nov 12) reports that in Hokkaido, for instance, over the month of October new highs for the number of people testing positive were exceeded almost daily. 

A local journalist at prefectural headquarters tells the magazine, "Hokkaido's first peak came last April 23, with 45 people testing positive in a single day. From the end of May onwards, the number of new cases fell to less than 10 per day, but then from late September the second wave hit, and on October 23, a new high of 51 people was set." 

More disturbing was a government estimate issued last July predicting that a daily maximum of 96 new cases would test positive by autumn. This was reached on Nov 2. 

"But the government is saying, we have yet to reach the peak," says the aforesaid reporter. 

"Hokkaido is leaning toward issuing an advisory to refrain from two-way travel between other prefectures," a government source is quoted as saying. 

Being the farthest north, Hokkaido is the first part of the country to encounter low temperatures with low humidity, conditions that enhance the spread of the coronavirus. In another month, wintry weather will cover the rest of the main islands, and this does not bode well for public health. 

Actually, it's already beginning. Data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare compared the number of cases tested positive, and occupancy ratio of available dedicated hospital beds earmarked for coronavirus patients, in Japan's 47 prefectures between end-September and end-October. 

Leading the rise in infections was Aomori Prefecture, where cases rose from 36 to 227, an increase of 630.6%. This was followed by Okayama (182.2%); Miyagi (178.8%); Fukushima (153.4%); and Hokkaido (148.8%). Tokyo was ranked 13th, with 120.8%, and Osaka 14th, with 120.4%. 

As far as hospital bed occupancy, Aomori was tops again, with 27.9% of available beds for COVID-19 cases occupied, a one-month increase of 27.3 points. Rounding out the top five in terms of rises in bed occupancy were Miyagi (21.2 points); Okinawa (19.2); Okayama (14.0) and Kumamoto (7.0). In Tokyo and Osaka, bed occupants actually declined between end-September and end-October, by minus 4.5 and minus 5.6, respectively. 

Despite the obvious warning signs, the government has been blithely promoting its Go To Travel campaign to stimulate regional economies, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appears to be pleased with the results.  

Haruo Ozaki, president of the Tokyo Medical Association, believes it's possible that travelers from Tokyo to the provinces who eat out and enjoy local night life may be responsible for cluster infections. And these localities are poorly set up to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

"At least in Tokyo there are some doctors with experience in treating the pandemic," says Ozaki. "But that's not the case for local areas. Nor are there enough physicians to go around. If over 100 cases were to flare up over a short period, treatment facilities would be stretched to the limit."   

So what can a person do? Professor Shinichi Tanabe of Waseda advises that in addition to somehow keeping rooms ventilated, striking a happy medium between 40 to 70% humidity is advisable. Below 40% makes it easier for the virus to propagate; above 70% leads to water condensation on inner surfaces, enabling the growth of molds. 

Professor Koichi Wada at the International University of Health and Welfare in Tochigi believes that a key factor in increase of new cases from this autumn is that restrictive measures initially put in place to deal with the first wave of the coronavirus have been allowed to slacken. 

"Up to next March, if we are able to hold down the spread of the virus, things will become much brighter," Wada tells Shukan Bunshun. "The real battle will be making it through the winter."

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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it's possible that travelers from Tokyo to the provinces who eat out and enjoy local night life may be responsible for cluster infections.

Isn't that what people were warning about when this GoTo nonsense was launched?

6 ( +18 / -12 )

@Kazuaki, I understand your point, but there is kind of a myth that we are doing well here. We aren't really. Compared to America, everywhere is doing ok, I guess.

Go To was a big, selfish mistake.

-1 ( +12 / -13 )

I think Japan has done quite well concerning COVID, and I really dont know why. Im around Japanese all the time who spit cough grunt and see the usual pee in public allot. Crowded trains and buses, packed cafes, some mask others dont. cant really explain it.

-3 ( +10 / -13 )

... if this continues, stronger measures may be required.

Don't you mean stronger suggestions may be made?

0 ( +10 / -10 )

@philly1

lol

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

Thomas Goodtime

It is not a myth that here in Japan its going relatively well. It’s obviously so, and thats very good news.

A lot of people just can’t accept it when Japan does something just fine.

-11 ( +6 / -17 )

And Japan is cleaner than most places. Don’t let that fact offend you now.

-16 ( +3 / -19 )

@why would I be offended? Don't be so rude. I'm a Japanese man in my 70's, and know my country pretty well. I also had the fortune of living abroad and can thus compare those places and Japan.

-5 ( +7 / -12 )

@thepersoniamnow,

I don't want to offend you, but I don't think people have a problem accepting when Japan does something well. I think some people have a problem that when Japan does do something well, they want to make it a competition, pointing out that they've done it better than other countries.

-5 ( +7 / -12 )

Perfectly accurate.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

From what I have seen of the graphs, over here we are already in our third wave.

At the beginning of this pandemic, I remember reading about the 1918-1920 pandemic, which more or less started in January 1918. Although the first half of 1918 had a lot of casualties, the second half of 1918 was much worse. Although 1918 had a lot of casualties, 1919 was even worse. Even 1920 had a lot of casualties, although not as many as 1919.

I am hoping for a rapid availability of a good vaccine. It might save a billion lives.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

BTW, my mom lived through the 1918 pandemic, and was traumatized by her memories of it. Growing up with the stories she told me about that horrible time, I was thankful that I did not have to witness anything so horrible. Until now. History seems to be repeating itself. If this pandemic holds true to form, we are just on the cusp of the worst casualties. What we have witnessed so far could seem like a walk in the park by comparison.

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

We really need that vaccine to get produced. The way things are going we could have a billion casualties to Covid-19, without a vaccine.

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

1glenn - By Casualties , you mean infections or deaths?

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

So far, in Japan the hospitals have not been overrun nor have there beenmillions of deaths.

However, the government’s promotion of travel is surely a factor in the spreading of the virus.

The second wave now might be much more serious.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

re: theResident

The pandemic of 1918-1920 caused between 50 and 150 million deaths worldwide, and the world population was less than 2 billion, so about 5 percent of Earth's population was killed in that pandemic. The current pandemic has the potential to cause many more deaths than what we witnessed a century ago, although it looks like that won't happen, due to modern hygiene practices, and medicine (five percent of 7.8 billion, in round numbers, almost 400 million).

I was wrong to estimate a billion deaths, without vaccines. Hundreds of millions would have been accurate.

It saddens me to think that the country with the most casualties may be my own.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

BTW, my mom lived through the 1918 pandemic, and was traumatized by her memories of it. Growing up with the stories she told me about that horrible time, I was thankful that I did not have to witness anything so horrible. Until now. History seems to be repeating itself. If this pandemic holds true to form, we are just on the cusp of the worst casualties. What we have witnessed so far could seem like a walk in the park by comparison.

Let's hope that the vaccines get a roll out soon & the antivaxx crowd don't kick off. It's trying times, for sure, but with the scientific advancements over the last century - I'm confident that the virus can be beat.

Thanks for sharing about your mom's experience. One can only imagine what that was like.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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