No need to stop social activities with Omicron: COVID advisor from Japan

Japan’s top coronavirus adviser said on Friday the country no longer needs to halt social activities “completely” because symptoms of the currently dominant Omicron variant are less severe than those of previous strains, in a change major shift from its previous stance focused on strict controls to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Shigeru Omi said in an interview with Kyodo News that the coronavirus situation in Japan has entered a new phase and it is no longer necessary to take measures such as closing schools and large stores like the government did so in April 2020 when the country’s first COVID-19 state of emergency was declared.

Shigeru Omi, Japan’s top coronavirus adviser, gives an interview in Tokyo on April 15, 2022. (Kyodo) == Kyodo

“We probably don’t need an option like stopping social activities altogether anymore,” Omi said, adding that people have learned to cope with the virus after more than two years of the pandemic.

“It is difficult to get public understanding and cooperation if we continue to focus on measures only to reduce the number of people infected,” he said.

Pedestrian traffic should no longer be completely cut off to make cities look “deserted” in the current pandemic situation, the head of the group of health experts to the government has said.

However, the panel is still divided on possible restrictions on social and economic activities, Omi said. The panel will make suggestions after simulating changes in the number of new cases and medical situations by various metrics, he said.

Discussing a recent increase in infections, which some experts are calling the start of the seventh wave, Omi cited factors such as the Omicron variant BA.2 subtype spreading faster and people resuming their normal daily activities. .

Japan confirmed 49,768 new cases of the virus on Friday, less than half of the more than 100,000 daily infections seen in early February, but they have picked up since late March.

Omi said the number of infections will likely increase further around the Golden Week holiday from late April, while the number of severe cases could increase around June, when the effectiveness of booster shots given to the elderly is expected. start to fade.

“The infected population is changing from young people to old people,” Omi said.

He said cheaper drugs should improve the situation in the medium to long term.

Joel C. Hicks