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Editorial: Japan gov't should rethink stance, boost measures to battle 5th wave of virus

The state of emergency in effect in Tokyo and elsewhere over the spread of the coronavirus has been expanded to cover Osaka Prefecture in western Japan and the three prefectures of Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba in the capital sphere. It is due to remain in place until the end of August this year.

    Tokyo has recorded over 3,000 new virus cases per day for five days in a row. The capital's fifth wave of infections has spread from major cities to regional areas, and the number of new infections nationwide has surpassed 10,000 in a single day.

    Experts are sounding the alarm, saying the infections are spreading like never before. The government should revise its position of relying on vaccinations, and reformulate countermeasures.

    The spread of a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus has contributed to the situation. Severe symptoms of COVID-19 have increased particularly among those in their 40s and 50s, and concerns have been raised that Japan's medical system is coming under pressure.

    Japan has reached a stage in which it requires tougher measures to combat the virus, but even in Tokyo, where a state of emergency was declared in mid-July, the number of people out and about in shopping areas has not fallen sufficiently.

    Experts have pointed out that the greatest problem is that people have not shared a sense of crisis.

    It is the government's lack of foresight that has resulted in this state of affairs. It appears the government presumed that if it proceeded with vaccinations, then even if infections spread, it would be able to prevent a collapse of the medical system.

    While authorities gave the order to vaccinate older people, they lacked consideration of the spread of virus variants. And since the government has been cornered into declaring a more widespread state of emergency it is has been underscoring the efficacy of a drug for the treatment of COVID-19 that has only just been approved.

    This could send a mistaken message to the public that it is possible to control the situation even if the number of infected people increases.

    The Japanese government should reflect on the inadequacy of the measures it has taken to date and ask for the public's cooperation to confront infection control measures head-on.

    An expert government subcommittee recently heard calls for an expansion of the state of emergency to cover the whole of Japan, and for a request to be made to large commercial facilities to suspend their operations, among other measures.

    The government must not hold back because the Olympic Games are underway. If the state of infections continues to worsen, then it will be necessary to strengthen countermeasures.

    Preventing a collapse of the medical system is the top priority. Officials should proactively secure hospital beds and establish a system allowing it to grasp when the condition of patients recuperating at home worsens.

    Shigeru Omi, head of the government panel, touched on the possibility of the Olympic Games contributing to the spread of infections, saying, "It is naturally the responsibility of the government and the organizing committee to put their full efforts into doing all they can do." Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga must take the lead in fulfilling that responsibility.

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