Japan plans targeted COVID curbs as new cases fall but deaths hit record
TOKYO (Reuters) -A Japanese health panel approved on Friday a plan to bring in more targeted COVID-19 curbs across much of the nation, as overall new infections decline but fatalities rise to a record level.
The government will let infection restrictions on mobility and commerce lapse on Sunday in five prefectures where the virus appears to have peaked out. However, curbs will be extended until March 6 in another 17 regions where infection levels are still relatively high.
“The priority going forward is to try to hold down serious cases and deaths among the elderly,” Shigeru Omi, Japan’s top health advisor, told reporters after the panel’s meeting.
The plan is expected to be officially approved later on Friday.
Newly recorded fatalities rose to a record 271 on Thursday, according to a tally by national broadcaster NHK, the third straight day over 200. There have been 2,446 deaths so far in February, already the second-deadliest month in the two-year pandemic.
A panel of health experts said this week that a surge of cases caused by the infectious Omicron variant appears to have peaked, but hospitalisations and deaths would likely continue, particularly among the elderly.
Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura estimated that the Omicron wave would claim 4,339 lives between January and April 20, with more than 70% of the victims in their 80s or older. That number could be reduced depending on the progression of booster shots, acccording to Nishiura.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged to accelerate Japan’s booster shot programme, which has so far reached just 12% of the population.
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