TOKYO: Japan is seeing a surge in the number of COVID-19-related deaths during the ongoing seventh infection wave.
With the BA.5 omicron subvariant of the novel coronavirus running rampant across the country, the number of daily death cases has recently been exceeding 200 nearly every day, coming close to the levels seen during the sixth wave that swept across the country at the beginning of this year.
According to the health ministry, the daily tally of COVID-19 deaths announced by local governments hit a record high of 277 on Feb. 22 this year, during the height of the sixth infection wave.
COVID-19 deaths then started to decrease, with the total staying below 100 for around four months from April 2. The number of death cases was even below 10 on some days.
The figure climbed back above 100 on July 26, as a result of a steep increase in the number of coronavirus infection cases from the end of June.
Since hitting 250 on Aug. 9, the number of death cases in the country has topped the 200-mark almost every single day.
Many have brought up the low risk of COVID-19 patients developing severe symptoms from the omicron variant.
An expert panel under the health ministry, however, cautioned people not to underestimate the omicron variant, saying that the proportion of fatalities among all omicron carriers stood at 0.13 pct as of February, higher than the fatality rate for seasonal influenza, which is estimated to be around 0.006 pct-0.09 pct.
“The number of deaths has gone up, with the occupancy rates of hospital beds (for COVID-19 patients) rising and many patients unable to receive adequate treatment due to temporary closures of hospital wards caused by an increase of infected healthcare workers,” National Institute of Infectious Diseases chief Takaji Wakita, who also chairs the expert panel, analyzed.
The number of deaths during the seventh wave “may exceed that of the sixth wave,” he added.
Wakita called on people to wear unwoven masks even while on holiday, as well as continue to avoid closed, crowded and close-contact, or 3C, settings.