BioScience Trends. 2021;15(6):350-352. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2021.01560)

The strategy behind Japan's response to COVID-19 from 2020- 2021 and future challenges posed by the uncertainty of the Omicron variant in 2022

Song PP, Karako T


Japan has experienced five waves of the COVID-19 pandemic so far. Four states of emergency were declared, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic (July 23-August 8, 2021) and Paralympic Games (August 24-September 5, 2021) were held during the fifth wave of the pandemic. Although a record 5,773 new cases were reported in Tokyo on August 13, the number abruptly decreased afterwards, and only 9 new cases were confirmed in Tokyo on November 1, 2021. The high vaccination rates (79.2% of the total population has received the first dose and 77.8% has received the second dose as of December 24, 2021) and behavioral changes (such as mask wearing rate in public places remains close to 100%) are considered to be important factors in curbing the spread of the virus. However, the new Omicron variant poses future challenges due to its uncertainty. A cumulative total of 231 cases of the Omicron variant were reported in Japan between November 30 and December 25, 2021. Preliminary data indicated that the Omicron variant could be more contagious but less deadly than the Delta variant. Since mankind may be forced to coexist with COVID-19, efforts such as vaccination campaigns will need to continue and behavioral changes will become increasingly important as the "new normal" to reduce population density and contact with people. This is evinced at least in Japan's successful practices in fighting the past five waves of the pandemic.

KEYWORDS: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, Delta variant, Omicron variant, vaccination, behavioral changes, Japan

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