Japanese Are Dying At Home: Slow Vaccination And More Concerning Covid-19 Variants Carry The Blame
In less than three months, the Japanese capital Tokyo is expected to host one of the biggest sporting events of the year—the Summer Olympics—amid a global pandemic. But the Covid-19 situation in the country is getting worse day by day.
According to a Reuters report, a growing number of people in Japan are now dying after contracting coronavirus at home.
It is claimed that more infectious variants are responsible for this unprecedented situation in the country that also fuelled the fourth wave of infections.
As the fourth wave takes shape, doctors in Japan fear that the country's medical system could be pushed beyond the breaking point.
In the country, Yoshihide Suga’s government has been facing criticism for the way it has been handling the crisis, along with a slow and poor vaccination strategy.
A newspaper ad in Japan criticising the government’s response to the fourth wave was also widely shared on social media on 11 May.
The ad has appeared in three national newspapers.
It was paid for by a publisher known for taking stances on social and political issues.
The ad is an illustration of the coronavirus overlaid on a World War II-era photo of Japanese children training to fight with sticks.
It says: “No vaccine, no medication. Are we supposed to fight with bamboo spears? If things continue as they are, politics are going to kill us.”
“We have been tricked. What was the past year for?” The full-page ad by magazine publisher Takarajimasha asks.
Since 1 March, at least 17 Japanese have died from the Covid-19 at home in Japan’s Osaka Prefecture, as highly infectious strains of the virus caused a spike in cases, officials said while reporting deaths outside the hospital for the first time.
Most of the victims were 60 years old or more, but one fatality was in their 30s.
But there was no clarification about why these deceased Covid victims had not been admitted to the hospital.
News of these deaths has come as more than 96 per cent of the prefecture's critical care beds were occupied.
Yasutoshi Kido, a professor at Osaka City University's Graduate School of Medicine said that Osaka hospitals were turning away patients with heart issues and cancer to make room for Covid-19 cases.
But according to Kido, their ability to reallocate resources had "almost collapsed".
Hirofumi Yoshimura, who is the governor of Osaka, has asked the medical association to arrange visits to housebound patients, citing the deaths at home amid the shortage of hospital beds.
Japan’s western region has become the epicentre of Covid-19 cases caused by more infectious and dangerous B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom.
Nikkei Asia reported on 11 May that 974 new cases were reported in Osaka, up from 668 a day earlier.
The region also recorded its highest number of Covid-19 deaths in a single day that was 55.
The government has extended a state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and several other regions until the end of May.
Less Vaccine, Less Safety
In a country like Japan, which is one of the largest and most developed economies in the world, the slow vaccination rollout is unacceptable, specifically at a time when more Covid-19 cases are emerging and the government is reluctant to postpone Tokyo Olympics—which supposed to start from 23 July.
Japanese people are also frustrated with this slow vaccination strategy and the plan to go ahead with Olympic Games in the health crisis.
The Guardian reported that almost 60 per cent of people in Japan want Olympic Games to be cancelled.
Even two Japanese tennis players, Kei Nishikori, who contracted Covid-19 last year and his compatriot, as well as World No. 2 Naomi Osaka, have expressed doubts about the safe conduct of the Olympics.
The Tokyo Olympic organising committee said on 10 May that IOC president Thomas Bach has cancelled a trip to Japan due to the surging cases of COVID-19 in the country.
While there is a possibility that mutated and more infectious variants are now fuelling Japan’s fourth Covid wave, according to a Reuter's tracker the Asian country not only lags most wealthy countries in its vaccination campaign but also managed to inoculate only 2.6 per cent of the population.
There are also some reports which claimed that many Japanese people are finding it difficult to book slots to get their jabs.
Christophe Weber, chief executive of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, which is handling imports of Moderna Inc's vaccine told Reuters: "Japan is behind. So our goal now is to support an acceleration of the vaccination."
However, Kyodo News reported that from 10 May Japan—which has a population of 126 million—accelerated its rollout of vaccines to vaccinate all of the elderly by the end of July.
It also added that the Suga government will send vaccines to municipalities to administer to over 9 million people within two weeks, covering a quarter of the nation's elderly population which is about 36 million.
The country began inoculating its elderly aged 65 or older on 12 April, after starting its campaign with health care workers on 17 February.
However, the National Governors' Association in Japan is expected to urge PM Suga’s government to call on people to take tougher anti-virus measures as highly contagious Covid-19 variants are on the rise, putting a strain on the nationwide health care system.
Taro Kono, who is the minister in charge of Japan's vaccination efforts, said: "We will continue to listen to the requests of local governments and provide appropriate support."
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