EDITORIAL | ‘Tokyo Alert’ Lifted, But Stay Vigilant and Upgrade the Medical System

(Click here to read this article in Japanese.)

 

Although the illumination on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and the Rainbow Bridge has been turned to seven colors from the alert signal of red, we should not let down our guard.

 

On June 11, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government lifted the “Tokyo Alert,” a warning it issued on June 2 with the aim of preventing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

 

Under the decision, Tokyo’s coronavirus road map for gradually easing limitations on various businesses has entered its third and final stage, paving the way for businesses such as karaoke rooms, bars, and pachinko parlors to resume.

 

The Tokyo Alert had been invoked to raise awareness of the need for continued vigilance against the resurgence of the virus. Even after the June 2 alert, however, the number of people going out continued to increase in various parts of the capital. Ultimately, the alert was determined to have little effect.

 

The weekly average of newly-confirmed cases as of June 11 stood at 17.9 in Tokyo. This was fewer than 20 new daily infections, a point cited as one of seven criteria for issuing the alert, and therefore a major reason for deactivating the Tokyo Alert. On June 11, however, 22 new COVID-19 cases were reported, a figure exceeding the criteria. These numbers are not reassuring.

 

In preparation for a second wave of the novel coronavirus that some experts have anticipated could come in the autumn, every business sector needs to think seriously about ways of avoiding the “3Cs” (confined spaces, crowded places, and close person-to-person contacts) while taking steps to resume business operations. It is particularly important to pay attention to conditions in the late-night entertainment areas, which have been conducive to spreading the infection.

 

As we consider the downward trend in the spread of infections, there is one matter requiring our further effort. That is the enhancement of the nation’s medical system.

 

While there has been an increase in the number of beds for patients hospitalized with moderate and severe symptoms, more preparations are necessary to prepare for the next stage of infections. Appropriate healthcare facilities must also be readied to accommodate asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients who test positive for the virus.

 

As Japan seeks to expand the scope of its economic activities, no time should be wasted in improving testing to accurately determine the current status of COVID-19. “Visualization” by testing is one of the most fundamental and effective means of stemming the spread of virus infections.

 

The testing options include PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests designed to detect the coronavirus gene sequence, antibody tests for determining the presence or absence of an individual’s experience with the infection based on a specific protein, and antigen testing to swiftly determine the presence of the virus protein. A multi-layered approach that takes into account the characteristics of the respective available testing methods would be the most desirable.

 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is poised to ease recommended business closures on June 19 for night-time establishments that see contact between staff and customers, such as kyabakura hostess bars and host clubs. With this change, just about all businesses will be cleared to resume.

 

Yet, we must not relax our efforts to combat the coronavirus at this time. Instead, it is critical that we continue exercising the utmost caution in order to keep our communities as a whole from having to return to the status of stay-at-home coronavirus avoidance measures and business suspensions.

 

(Click here to read this article in Japanese.)

 

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

 

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