Japan: Spike in deaths at home amid fourth COVID-19 wave
The fourth COVID-19 wave is wreaking havoc in Japan where people are dying of the disease at home as highly infectious variants fuel surge in cases. The situation is also worrying because Tokyo plans to hold the Summer Olympics in just over two months—very less time to bring things under control. PM Yoshihide Suga-led government is facing sharp criticism over its handling of the crisis.
Cases increasing in Osaka due to more infectious variants
The situation in Japan's Osaka Prefecture is especially alarming as highly infectious variants are causing a surge in cases. Seventeen COVID-19 deaths at home have been registered there since March 1. Osaka's healthcare system seems to be on the verge of collapsing—96% of critical care beds are already occupied. Osaka's Governor, Hirofumi Yoshimura, has asked the medical association to arrange visits for homebound patients.
Osaka registered 974 new cases in single day
On Tuesday alone, Osaka recorded 974 new COVID-19 cases, while Tokyo registered 925. Late last week, to control the spread, the government enforced new restrictions and extended a state of emergency in most regions, including Tokyo and Osaka, until May 31. Meanwhile, western Japan has reportedly become an epicenter of infections caused by the more contagious, dangerous B.1.1.7 variant first found in the UK.
Extremely slow-paced vaccine rollout in Japan is worsening the situation
While its fourth COVID-19 wave is possibly being fueled by more infectious mutant strains, Japan—despite being a developed country—is also lagging behind most wealthy nations in terms of vaccination that could be worsening the situation. According to a Reuters tracker, Japan has so far managed to vaccinate only 2.6% of its population of 126 million. People are also unable to book vaccination slots easily.
Government reluctant to postpone Olympics despite public opposition
Meanwhile, people in Japan are not only angry with the government's handling of the COVID-19 situation and the slow vaccine rollout but also its reluctance to postpone the Olympic Games even amid the crisis. Nearly 60% of Japanese want the Games to be canceled, reported The Guardian. The Tokyo Olympics—delayed by a year owing to the pandemic—are scheduled to be held from July 23.
Japan now plans to vaccinate all elderly people by July-end
However, amid calls to take tougher measures to counter COVID-19, Japan has accelerated the vaccination drive from May 10 and plans to inoculate all elderly people by July-end, reported Kyodo News. The Suga-led administration would also send vaccines to the municipalities for administering the shots to nine million people within two weeks—a fourth of the country's 36 million elderly population.