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Majority of Tokyo dead in omicron wave are elderly, people with underlying conditions

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government building (Mainichi/Makoto Ogawa)

TOKYO -- Among those in Japan's capital who died of COVID-19 during the omicron variant-fueled sixth wave that began at the start of 2022, more than 70% had some kind of preexisting condition, and the infection route for about 40% was inside facilities such as care homes for the elderly, it has emerged.

    The Mainichi Shimbun analyzed symptoms and other factors regarding the 158 people's deaths announced by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15. Broken down by age, over 60s made up some 90% of the deceased. Although the omicron variant is thought to present a relatively low risk of severe coronavirus symptoms, it is clear it still poses a threat to older people and individuals with underlying health conditions.

    While 26 people died of COVID-19 in January, the number of the deceased rose sharply to 132 people between Feb. 1 and 15. Eighty-six were men and 72 were women. Separated by age, six people were in their 20s to 40s and eight were in their 50s. Conversely, 14 people were in their 60s, 26 were in their 70s, 47 in their 80s and 52 were in their 90s, showing the number of the dead rose consistently with age. Five people who died were 100 or older.

    Looking at the presence of preexisting conditions, at least 117 people -- 74% -- had some kind of underlying health issue. When compiling the results by condition, which included some patients who had more than one illness, the most common issue was high blood pressure recorded in 39 of the deceased. Twenty-one had diabetes, 19 had cancer, six had lipid abnormalities, and three were obese. Broken down by the parts of the body affected by the disease, 22 had issues in the heart, 22 in the brain, 13 in the kidneys and nine in the lungs.

    The most common infection route was within facilities, accounting for 40% with 64 people. There was a marked number of instances of infections spread at intensive nursing homes and day service facilities for the elderly. Twenty-eight people were infected in hospital, and nine at home. Of the 89 people for whom vaccination status was known, 64 were inoculated twice, one person once, and 24 were unvaccinated.

    At the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Feb. 17 monitoring meeting, it was pointed out that the proportion of elderly people in new infection numbers was rising. Norio Omagari from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine said, "While reducing the chances for the elderly to get infected in every aspect, we must observe thorough basic infection prevention measures and actively progress with third vaccinations."

    After the meeting, Omagari stressed the need for infection prevention for older people to reporters, saying, "Every year during influenza season there is a considerable number of people who see their heart or kidneys fail, and go on to die. The omicron variant creates the same kind of situation. For people of advanced age, developing influenza or COVID-19 places a real burden on their bodies."

    (Japanese original by Shinji Kurokawa, Tokyo City News Department)

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