As outbreak escalates nationwide, Japanese government considers post-emergency plans
As Japan is further inundated by a wave of COVID-19 of unprecedented scale and severity, the central government – long criticized for its haphazard response to the pandemic – seeks to revise the country’s guidelines to lift state of emergency and design an exit strategy for when the current one expires.
Previously, five criteria – hospital occupancy, number of coronavirus patients, positive test rates, daily infections and number of cases not found – had been flexibly taken into account when reporting, l extension, prolongation or lifting of the state of emergency. In the future, however, two new factors – the vaccination rate and the number of critically ill patients – will be added to the list as the country focuses more on daily cases and new data points, the report said. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato during a press conference Wednesday.
The country is turning to recovery efforts even as the epidemic continues to worsen. Currently, 13 of the 47 prefectures are subject to a state of emergency which is due to expire on September 12. Kato said the central government intends to announce the revised guidelines before that date.
So far, public officials have calibrated their response to the pandemic based on new cases – whether that is a moving weekly average or daily infections relative to population size – or the degree to which the healthcare system is inundated with COVID-19 patients.
This wave, however – which started in the capital in July but turned into a record-breaking national epidemic – has resulted in many more daily infections, especially in young and middle-aged patients, but fewer deaths, critically ill patients and infections. in the elderly.
By current criteria, regions reporting more than 25 cases per 100,000 people in a week have reached stage 4, according to the Ministry of Health’s four-point alert system. Kato said that figure could be revised.
“We will look at the situation holistically and take a decision in close consultation with experts,” Kato said.
Deaths and severe cases are rising rapidly, and the sheer volume of new cases in parts of the country has flooded hospitals, public health centers and temporary quarantine facilities, forcing officials to ask a growing number of patients with mild or moderate symptoms of isolating themselves at home where they risk infecting people with whom they live.
“The vaccine is clearly effective in reducing the number of critically ill patients,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference on Tuesday evening. “New cases are an important factor, but perhaps the number of critically ill patients or hospitalized patients is better indicators of the state of the health system, and therefore should be weighed more heavily.”
When officials in the Suga administration mentioned the creation of an exit strategy earlier this month, critics were quick to point out that the epidemic was not only getting worse, but the central government was also not succeeding. to contain it. Discussions about a stimulus package seemed hasty to many.
Japan has suffered four waves of the pandemic and is now in the midst of its fifth. After the country lifted the state of emergency in May 2020, the capital attempted to gradually reopen by gradually lifting restrictions over a period of several weeks. The plan seemed effective at first, but cases have gradually rebounded.
Between the country’s third and fourth waves, the central government used near-emergency measures – more lenient compared to measures in place under a state of emergency – to prevent a viral rebound after the gradual lifting state of emergency. But the effort failed in Tokyo and Osaka, where new cases spiked two to three weeks later.
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