TOKYO: Japanese prefectural officials are increasingly believing that the country is about to enter a seventh wave of COVID-19 infections as cases are surging in some regional areas.
The number of new infection cases hit a record high in the week through Tuesday in the prefectures of Iwate, Akita, Fukushima, Niigata, Nagano, Ehime, Oita, Miyazaki and Kagoshima, according to the health ministry.
“We have to act on the assumption that we’re already in the seventh wave,” Shimane Governor Tatsuya Maruyama said.
Takaji Wakita, head of a health ministry panel of experts, said that the level of immunity acquisition varies depending on region.
The latest surge in COVID-19 cases comes because infections did not spread much during the sixth wave, Wakita said.
Miyazaki Governor Shunji Kono told a news conference Tuesday that his prefecture is in its “worst-ever infection situation.” He said, “If the situation gets worse and the medical system is strained, we’ll have to ask for stricter behavior restrictions.”
On Friday, Nagano Governor Shuichi Abe urged the central government to fully analyze infection data by prefecture.
The Fukushima prefectural government is requesting local residents take thorough precautions at home and at group dining events to prevent infections after the central government lifted its COVID-19 pre-emergency measures for the prefecture on March 7.
It is planning to step up its campaign, including by using its wireless emergency alert system. But the effects of such alerts are diminishing as people are accustomed to the pandemic.
“If we stop the requests, residents would become careless,” a Fukushima prefectural official said, adding that “we have no choice but to keep on sending the message.”
Across the country, COVID-19 cases remain elevated due to the outbreak of the BA.2 omicron subvariant and the low rollout of booster shots among young people.
“BA.2 will become a big driver of a seventh wave,” Tottori Governor Shinji Hirai said.
At a news conference Friday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said that COVID-19 vaccines “are expected to break the chain of infections.”
Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura called on people to get vaccinated to “ensure a return to prepandemic daily lives.”