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Osaka becomes 1st prefecture in Japan to top 5,000 COVID deaths

The Osaka Prefectural Government headquarters (Mainichi/Yumi Shibamura)

OSAKA -- A total of seven new COVID-19 deaths were confirmed in west Japan's Osaka Prefecture on May 19, bringing the total for the area to 5,005, marking the first time a prefecture's COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 5,000.

    In Osaka Prefecture, COVID-19 deaths are on the rise at a greater pace than Tokyo, which has recorded the highest number of infections nationwide and has seen 4,425 fatalities as of May 19. The loss of life in Osaka Prefecture comprises one-sixth of the some 30,000 coronavirus deaths reported across Japan. In particular, the prefecture has reported 1,941 fatalities during the area's "sixth coronavirus wave" of omicron infections since Dec. 17, 2021, accounting for nearly 40% of the nationwide death toll. Since Osaka Prefecture's death toll exceeded 4,000 on March 3, fatalities have been growing at a great pace, with an increase of 1,000 observed within around 80 days.

    A rise in deaths was seen amid an unprecedented explosive spread of cases during the sixth wave, and infections spread to elderly patients admitted to hospitals with diseases other than COVID-19. There was a series of cases where people died not as a result of pneumonia, but due to a deterioration in their preexisting medical conditions, and as of May 8, individuals aged 60 or older accounted for 97.1% of prefectural deaths. Meanwhile, the death rate for individuals aged 60 or older was 2%, while the death rate for all age groups stood at 0.27%.

    The numerous occurrences of infection clusters at elderly care facilities which led to the great number of COVID-19 cases among the elderly, with high death risks, are believed to be the factors behind Osaka's high death toll. When viewing figures since February, coronavirus clusters involving five or more infected people occurred at 444 facilities in Tokyo, and the group infection toll stood at 7,519 as of April 17. Meanwhile, in Osaka Prefecture, clusters occurred at 572 facilities, with 9,740 infections as of April 13 -- around 30% greater compared to the capital.

    The Osaka Prefectural Government has indicated a plan to conduct antigen tests once every three days on employees and others at elderly care facilities to prevent cluster infections.

    (Japanese original by Satoshi Kondo, Osaka Science and Environment News Department)

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