Vaccines, Masks, Sanitizers? Japan Puzzles Over their Success

What success story is Japan sharing with their new Covid-19 update?

Since mid-August, daily new COVID-19 cases have fallen sharply, peaking at 6,000 in Tokyo. And the number of patients in the Japan capital is now below 100, an 11-month low. The bars are complete, the trains are crowded, but the mood is less celebratory, and the general perplexity has diminished.   

Possible factors for its success include a delayed and rapid vaccination campaign, the emptying of many night spots for fear of the spread of the latest wave of disease. The widespread practice of wearing masks before the pandemic, and poor weather that kept people indoors in late August.   

In early August, more than 5,000 cases were reported daily in Tokyo and 20,000 nationwide. Japan reports 429 cases on Sunday, totaling 1.71 million and 18,000 deaths since last year s pandemic. Tokyo said 40 points on Sunday, up from 100 for the ninth day in a row and the year’s lowest level.   

Some speculated that the drop in cases was due to fewer tests. But Tokyo city government data show that the positive rate fell by 25% between late August and mid-October, and the number of tests dropped by a third. Masataka Inokuchi, deputy chief of the Tokyo Medical Association, said the decline in positivity rates showed slowing infections. 

On August 28, 2021, people queue to walk to a COVID-19 Impfpoint in Tokyo’s Shibuya Area. Along with lottery tickets for 300 doses given to anyone aged 16 to 39 who lives or commutes in the capital. But Japan has become stunning, if mysterious, success story for the coronavirus. 

What do experts say?

Experts fear that even if Japan knows cases are falling. It will still face a devastating wave this summer despite the fall numbers. Meanwhile, Japan has become a stunning and mysterious “success story” for the coronavirus – until now. But despite the fall numbers, experts are concerned that Japan could still face a potentially devastating wave this summer, despite knowing that there are fewer cases.    

Japan’s emergency measures, rather than lockdown requests, focused on bars and restaurants that were told to close or not serve alcohol. Many people continue to commute on crowded trains and attend sporting and cultural events in stadiums where social distance is under control.    

After the emergency ended, the government expanded its social and economic activities, allowing sporting events, package tours, and trial-based tours, the use of vaccination certificates, and increased testing.

 To speed up vaccination, former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has since left office, has increased the number of health workers eligible for vaccination, opened large-scale vaccination centers, and promoted workplace immunizations from the end of June. At a recent government advisory board meeting, Professor Hiroshi Nishiura of Kyoto University said vaccinations helped 650,000 people prevent infection and saved over 7,200 lives between March and September.   

Measures for Covid-19

Looking ahead, it will be essential to increase the number of cases before any future resurgence of infections, Wakita said Thursday. On Friday, the new prime minister Fumio Kishida said a preparedness plan to be drawn up in early November. It will include stricter restrictions on activities and require hospitals to provide more beds and personnel for COVID-19 treatment if cases and infections accelerate in worst-case scenarios. He did not give details.  

Many people are cautious and drop their vigilance in numbers. Wearing masks has become customary, said student Mizuki Kawano. She was worried about the virus, she said. She doesn’t want to be near anyone who doesn’t wear a mask, said her friend Alice Kawaguchi.    

Unlike other places in Europe and Asia, Japan has never had closure or a series of toothless states of emergency. Possible factors for the success of the Japanese are a delayed and rapid vaccination campaign. The emptying of many night spots for fear of spreading, a recent increase in cases. The widespread practice of wearing masks at the beginning of the pandemic, and the bad weather in late August that kept people indoors. The bars are complete and the trains crowded. But the mood is neither celebratory nor generally perplexed by the steep decline.    

With vaccine efficacy declining and winter approaching, experts fear that even if all known cases drop dramatically. The nation could face another wave this summer, as hospitals overflow and deaths from severe cases soar. Though numbers are still well below pre-vaccination levels. Experts fear Japan could face a devastating wave in late summer if the vaccine reduces cases.    

Rapid and intensive vaccination in Japan, especially among those under 64, has created a temporary disease similar to herd immunity, said Dr. Kazuhiro Tateda, a professor of virology at Toho University. About 70 percent of the population is vaccinated. Many attribute the vaccination campaign to young people, many of whom bring home infections.  

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