When Japan was recording a seven-day average of less than 1,000 Covid-19 cases this March, experts believed the country had overcome the pandemic for the third time in the last one year. The country has been gearing up to host the Olympics in July as fresh infections have been steadily declining.
However, things started to change from mid-April when Japan was hit by the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. On May 8, Japan’s Covid-19 cases topped 7,000 for the first time since mid-January and currently, the country’s seven-day average stands at 4,449, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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Japan’s Covid situation
With Japan witnessing Covid-19 cases at a rate that it has never before, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has already announced emergencies in nine prefectures of the country, including Tokyo — the venue of July’s month’s Olympic Games.
The order is to remain in place in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures.
This came after 13 of the country’s 47 prefectures saw record daily coronavirus cases.
Japan, which is still recording more than 4,000 cases a day during a prolonged fourth wave, has its medical systems strained in many cities. Hospitals in Osaka, Japan’s third-biggest city, are overflowing with coronavirus patients. About 35,000 people nationwide — twice the number of those in hospitals — are currently at home with the disease, often becoming seriously ill and sometimes dying before they can get medical care. Exhausted doctors in Osaka told Reuters they saw an “explosive growth in the number of patients”. “Simply put, this is a collapse of the medical system,” Yuji Tohda, director of Kindai University Hospital in Osaka, told the news agency.
Under the emergency measures, restaurants, department stores and other major commercial businesses have been ordered to curtail their operating hours, and dining establishments are forbidden from serving alcohol.
The country has recorded more than 700,000 infections and 12,000 Covid-19 deaths from the virus.Also in Explained | Tokyo Olympics — Costs, IOC, Covid-19, and vaccinations
Why has the fourth wave hit Japan so badly?
Japan’s vaccine rollout has been among the slowest in the industrialised world, with only 2.4 per cent of the population fully vaccinated. It started inoculating people only in February, much later than other developed nations.
Also, it is only this week that the government started mass vaccination campaigns in Tokyo and Osaka. But the government’s current goals call for only those over 65 to be fully vaccinated by the end of July, when the Summer Games are slated to begin.
Currently, officials are planning to vaccinate up to 5,000 people in Tokyo and 2,500 in Osaka every day with the Moderna jab, while in June and July this capacity is set to double.
So far, only around 4.7% of the country’s elderly — those above 65 years of age — have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna or Oxford AstraZeneca shots.
However, the progress is considerably slow owing to supply shortages and logistical hurdles, such as getting enough local doctors to help out. There has also been considerable confusion over how to secure slots. Many across the country have complained about errors while booking their slots for the new mass vaccination centres run by the government and this difficulty is often related to where one is making a reservation from.
News Source: The Indian Express