Hokkaido is in the midst of a sharp increase in new COVID-19 infections. While other provinces are starting to follow suit, what officials warn could be the start of an explosion of new infections nationwide.
When the new coronavirus appeared in Japan earlier this year, Hokkaido was the first region to see an increase in the number of new cases. Declaring its own state of emergency in late February, weeks before the central government imposed a nationwide order in April, Hokkaido seemed to herald the spread of the virus all over the rest. of the country.
The wake up was once again the first place to see a spike in new cases, most likely just by coincidence. But when winter approaches and cold temperatures keep people indoors – where poor air circulation in the immediate area can cause cluster infections and aggravate spread of the virus – maybe once more need to learn lessons from the country’s northernmost island.
While it is difficult to accurately pinpoint new cases, residents need to be cautious about how they spend their time indoors, Motoya Hayashi, an expert in architectural and engineering design. and with families as temperatures continue to drop. Professor at Hokkaido University Environmental Design Laboratory.
“It is important to wrap a towel and stay warm during winter to avoid catching a cold,” he said. “But opening windows to make sure the air in the room is properly circulated can help people avoid getting sick.”
Hokkaido is one of Japan’s coldest regions, and tends to enter winter earlier than the rest of the country. Snow in Hokkaido this season, with mercury sinking to minus 0.8 degrees Celsius in Sapporo on Tuesday morning.
The prefecture reported 166 new cases on Tuesday after recording a record high of 200 cases the day before. Hokkaido has seen a steady increase in new infections since the end of October, bringing the cumulative total to 4,364.
Experts and officials say the new cases in Hokkaido are partly due to people spending a lot of time indoors together in poorly ventilated rooms, due to increasingly cold weather.
According to Koji Wada, a professor of public health at the International University of Health and Welfare and a member of the government’s expert panel on the new coronavirus, it is coincidental that Hokkaido was the first province to report a significant increase. tell about previous new infections. this year and is currently leading the country once again when the virus breaks out again.
“However,” he added, “what’s going on in the north – and how officials react – could be reference material for other parts of the country where new cases are starting. increase again.”
During the meeting of the government’s COVID-19 subcommittee on Monday, Shigeru Omi, head of the council and also director of the Japan Public Health Organization, warned that new cases were in the country. can increase at a rapid rate if countermeasures are not taken. Get it now.
“New cases are certainly on the rise nationwide,” Omi said Monday night after the panel meeting.
The agency has urged the government to strengthen inspection capacity at food facilities where cluster infections have occurred and to prevent more from happening in the future.
The language barrier is making it difficult to ensure that the countermeasures have the intended impact on non-Japanese communities, according to the panel, which suggested the government use Video sharing website for multi-language support.
Urban centers across the country have seen a marked increase in the incidence of COVID-19 in the past few days. Tokyo reported 293 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the capital’s total to more than 32,700. Osaka, Nagoya, Aichi and Kanagawa prefectures are also seeing an increase in new cases.
According to the central government’s four-stage scale, which is used to measure the severity of a domestic outbreak in specific regions of the country, Hokkaido is among several regions that are in Phase 2.
If any city, county or region reaches Stage 3 – which shows the virus is spreading rapidly – the panel said stronger measures need to be enacted to curb economic activity. and society, by demanding business closures and domestic travel restrictions. Currently there are no provinces designated for Stage 3 or higher.
Cabinet Chief Katsunobu Kato suggested on Monday afternoon that, if the uptrend continues, the province could reach Phase 3 and be dropped out of the Go To Travel campaign, the central government’s ongoing effort. to promote domestic tourism.
But Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga tried to downplay that on Tuesday, saying the government was not considering excluding Hokkaido from the campaign.
Noting that Japan has recorded 1,000 or more cases for three consecutive days, Suga said on Tuesday during a meeting of senior officials of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that the country needs to settle the situation. image immediately.
“To stop viruses and protect people’s lives,” Suga said, “we have to strengthen the country’s testing capacity and send specialists to the areas with the worst infections.”