October 30, 2021 (Mainichi Japan)

Japanese version

This electron microscope photo provided by Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases shows the coronavirus. (Photo Courtesy of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases)

Experts warn of 6th wave as COVID cases decrease in Japan but rise overseas

TOKYO — Oct. 31 marks one month since the coronavirus state of emergency was lifted in Japan, and experts are calling for people to be on their guard 


TOKYO — Oct. 31 marks one month since the coronavirus state of emergency was lifted in Japan, and experts are calling for people to be on their guard against a sixth wave as cluster infections are occurring in some areas and the flow of people is expected to increase due to events including Halloween and homecoming at the year-end.

The maximum number of daily new infections in the fifth wave that took place in Japan from July to August was 25,851 nationwide on Aug. 20 and 5,908 in Tokyo on Aug. 13. The number of infections across Japan was 268 on Oct. 28 — about 1% of the peak figure. Cases of seriously ill patients, which at one point exceeded 2,000, have decreased to 145.

Although the reason why the fifth wave has come to an end is unclear, it has been pointed out that vaccinations, said to have an effect in preventing infections, have significantly progressed mainly among elderly people.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s coronavirus expert Advisory Board analyzed, “The number of new infections continued to decrease nationwide thanks to the cooperation of many citizens and businesses in infection countermeasures, and the increase in the vaccination rate.

According to the Cabinet Secretariat, 71.2% of all citizens had completed their second doses as of Oct. 29. In particular the inoculation rate of elderly people aged 65 and older, who tend to develop serious conditions when infected, has risen to 90%. Many people have gotten their shots, and the rate of vaccination among working generations, which was delayed compared to elderly people, reached 70% and 80% for those in their 40s and 50s, respectively.

Kiyosu Taniguchi, director of the National Mie Hospital and a member of the government’s Advisory Committee on the Basic Action Policy, pointed out, “Infections during the fifth wave plummeted because the vaccination rate surged exactly at the same time as the number of infections spiked. The coronavirus vaccine offers a very high level of antibody for a while after inoculation, and is super effective in preventing infections. There was also a great synergistic effect from measures such as wearing masks and self-restraint.”

One other factor seems to be the increase in public awareness of the infection risk. Hiroshi Nishiura, professor of theoretical epidemiology at Kyoto University, says he believes the rise in infections was restrained by the fact that the situation worsened in the fifth wave and people began to refrain from highly infectious behavior.

In addition, as the season has changed to a more comfortable one compared to the summer, when air conditioning had to be used, a senior health ministry official said the situation “may have been affected by the fact that it became easier to ventilate in densely populated places.”

While the number of COVID-19 cases is continuing to decrease across Japan, figures are rising overseas including in the U.K. and Russia. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Oct. 28 that the number of weekly new infections and deaths in the world has increased for the first time in two months, indicating that the spread of COVID-19 is still continuing overseas.

Although the number of infections is on the decline in Japan, there were 52 cases in Osaka Prefecture on Oct. 29, which exceeded the figure on the same day of the previous week for the second day in a row following Oct. 28. Cluster infections are also taking place in some areas.

As economic activity is resuming in earnest ahead of the New Year holidays, the advisory board said, “There is concern that the rate of decline in infections will slow down or come to a stop. It is also necessary to keep in mind that indoor activities will increase as the temperature decreases.”

(Japanese original by Hidenori Yazawa and Etsuko Nagayama, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)