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How Tokyo beat a wave of coronavirus


Face masks, which have high rates of use in health-conscious Japan outside of a pandemic, have also been a factor limiting transmission. It was the same for the happy moment of the peak of his wave.

Summer in Japan, especially Tokyo, is hot, very hot. Temperatures over 30 degrees in one of the densest cities in the world mean people are often indoors, with the air conditioning on but no windows open.

“But September is pretty nice,” Oshitani said. “It’s cooler, but you can open the window and dine in the restaurant is better.”

The same pattern happened in Japan last year. Cases declined when there was less possibility of transmission indoors and September and October are quieter months on the Japanese calendar of events. There are fewer opportunities to drink or reunite with extended family at festivals like Obon in mid-August.

“Every time we have a long vacation, we see an increase in cases,” said Oshitani, who is concerned that they will resume once the bonenkai holiday season begins in December and winter begins. again forces revelers inside.

After a slow start – the vaccine rollout in Japan intensified sharply from August, especially among those under 60 – who, although less likely to become seriously ill, are more likely to account for the majority of cases as they travel and mingle with family and friends.

The timing meant that 60% of the population was fully vaccinated by the end of September, giving them maximum resistance to the disease at its peak and triggering a drop in cases. The lower numbers are not the result of fewer tests, the share of tests that come back positive fell from 10 percent in Tokyo in July to 0.6 percent on Friday.

“This outbreak was also much larger than the previous ones,” Oshitani said. “Officially, during this epidemic in Tokyo, around 3% of people between the ages of 20 and 29 were identified as confirmed cases. But the real number is probably three or four times higher than that, which means that probably more than 10 percent of young people have been infected, and now they are still immune to the natural infection. “

Japan, it seems, is in an ideal situation. Caught between seasons, restrictions and vaccinations, the COVID-19 wave must have finally crashed.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide SugaCredit:PA

Unfortunately, for former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, it did not come soon enough. The 72-year-old resigned as his party leader in September after his approval ratings fell in the 1930s due to his leadership style, handling COVID-19 and the Olympics .

“It wasn’t lucky for him,” said Sota Kato of the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research. “Even if he remained prime minister, he could not win the Liberal Democratic Party election then.”

The relay now goes to his replacement at the head of the PLD, Fumio Kishida, who will bring Japan to the polls on October 31. “I think it will have a positive effect for the PLD,” Kato said.


Despite the new optimism in Japan, there is a warning for Australia and other countries around the world that started their vaccination campaign late and are now achieving high coverage levels. The overseas experience may require them to rewrite the schedule of their recall programs as they open.

“The decrease in immunity is becoming a major problem,” said Oshitani, who said Japan had already started noticing vaccines wane after three months in older people who received their injection first – not those who were first injected. six months that have been reported for most recall programs.

Japan is the fastest aging country in the world, with 29% of its population over the age of 65. Its medical experts are keenly aware of the impact of COVID-19 developments on its older residents.

“In Japan, we are starting to see the same with more infections among the elderly,” Oshitani said.

Oshitani meets regularly with his colleagues in the region. On Thursday, he spoke with the Singapore National Center for Infectious Diseases. The city-state sees the number of cases increase by 3,000 per day despite the fact that 85% of residents are fully vaccinated. Many of its older residents were fully immunized by May.

“They clearly show that the decline in immunity is probably the major factor,” he said.

“This is probably the reason why they are seeing their numbers increase there and in the UK. Even with high vaccination coverage, efficacy decreases about three months after the second dose of vaccination. “

Yohei Matsuzaki, the owner of Have More Curry in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Yohei Matsuzaki, the owner of Have More Curry in Shibuya, Tokyo. Credit:Christophe Jue

Businesses feel battered and skeptical. Keisuke Yamamoto, the owner of the Jeremiah Tokyo underground bar, has said he looks forward to the restrictions being relaxed. “But I think a lot of people are afraid to go out,” he said.

Yohei Matsuzaki, who runs the Have More Curry restaurant in Shibuya, said he was surprised by the sharp drop in numbers.

“Winter is coming soon, so there could be another wave,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the same state of emergency cycle happened again. “

With Christophe Jue

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