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COVID cases across Japan drop drastically from previous week; influenza spreading

COVID cases across Japan drop drastically from previous week; influenza spreading

People wearing masks are seen crossing the street in Tokyo’s Ginza district. (Mainichi/Hiroshi Maruyama)

TOKYO — Japan’s health ministry announced Jan. 25 that new COVID-19 cases recorded across the country dropped drastically over the past week through Jan. 24 to 0.59 times the previous week’s figure, although influenza is spreading.

The figure was reported in a Jan. 25 meeting of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s anti-infection specialist advisory board headed by Takaji Wakita, director of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and related Cabinet members are set to make final arrangements and discuss on Jan. 26 when to downgrade the status of the coronavirus under the infectious disease control law to “category 5,” or the same level as seasonal influenza.

The number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the past week in Miyazaki Prefecture was 0.43 times that of the previous week — the largest decrease by prefecture. The next biggest decline was seen in Okinawa Prefecture, whose infections this past week were 0.44 times that of the previous week. The number of patients with severe symptoms, COVID-19 deaths, and cases where ambulance crews struggle to find medical institutions quickly to take emergency patients are also on the decline.

Meanwhile, the number of seasonal influenza patients between Jan. 9 and 15 averaged 7.37 per medical institution, and in Okinawa, the figure exceeded 30 people, which is considered to be the alert level for a possible large-scale outbreak.

At the beginning of the meeting on Jan. 25, health minister Katsunobu Kato said, “The number of new COVID-19 cases are continuously declining, but unlike the past two years, seasonal influenza is spreading nationwide and cases are increasing. I’d like for people to try to thoroughly take basic infection countermeasures.”

At the same time, some experts pointed out in a statement that “infection control measures that may be considered excessive as well as those with questionable effectiveness have continued.” Their statement added, “When thinking about how to employ anti-infection measures rationally, consideration should be given to the characteristics of each age group.”

(Japanese original by Takuya Murata, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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