Preparation for the second wave

Since the virus’ first appearance in China late last year, over 8 million people have been infected, and almost 450 thousand have died due to the virus around the world. While some countries have had fewer cases over the course of their lockdown, experts are warning about the imminent possibility of a second wave. Countries across East Asia are trying to stave off a bloom in case numbers.

Fukuoka, a major city in Japan, reported no new cases from the end of April to May 22nd, but since then the city has reported 119 cases from May 25th to June 2nd, putting the city on the front line of the country’s second wave of infections. In Tokyo, 34 new cases were recorded on June 2nd, which is the first time the daily number of infections have risen above 30 since May 14th. These small surges in case were anticipated, and while there is no imminent¬†state of emergency, “the bottom line is that we must quickly move to respond to the situation and to avoid the further spread of the disease by identifying the chains of transmission,” according to Dr. Shigeru Omi.

Recently in Beijing, there have been 27 new infections, many of which were linked back to a wholesale food market (Xinfadi in the Fentai district). This discovery has sparked mass testing and surrounding neighborhood lockdowns. The number has since spiked to 106 confirmed infections. “The epidemic situation in the capital is extremely severe,” said Beijing city spokesman Xu Hejian.

South Korea’s health authorities also report being in the midst of a “second wave” around Seoul because of the small, persistent outbreaks taking place in May, and while the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) has said that South Korea’s first wave hadn’t really ended, KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong has said that the holiday weekend in early May marked the beginning of a new wave of infections. “In the metropolitan area, we believe that the first wave was from March to April as well as February to March,” Jeong said, “then we see that the second wave which was triggered by the May holiday has been going on.”

In February, South Korea reported a peak of over 900 cases a day, and ever since, intensive tracking and testing reduced the case numbers to single digits by late April. In early May, however, with the celebration over holiday weekend in Seoul and eased social distancing guidelines, new cases spiked, pushing forward the anticipated second-wave.

Author: Camryn Thomas

Japan’s Preparation for Second Wave

Public officials and private companies across Japan are working on ways to prepare for a second wave of coronavirus infections. Currently, there have been over 17,000 people who have tested positive, and over 900 people have died in the country.

This preparation includes the addition of another 18 countries to Japan’s entry ban list, expanding the list from 111 to 129. While Japan adds countries such as Cuba and Lebanon, they consider easing the entry ban for Thailand, Australia, and another two nations.

The country tries to boost testing numbers as companies work together to speed up the manufacturing process for test kits. Fujirebio, along with two major electronics firms, will help expand capacity to create its nation tests. These kits can identify an infection much faster than PCR tests, with results in around 30 minutes. Toshiba will provide assistance and space to make the kits, while Hitachi will help make the process more efficient.

Japanese lawmakers will soon begin debating a new supplementary budget this week to support the government’s fight against coronavirus of which will include a reserve fund worth $91.5 billion. Half of this proposed money would go toward protecting jobs, supporting people in need, and helping local governments boost their medical systems, but there is opposition as some lawmakers feel that the government shouldn’t be given such a large “blank check.”

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has pledged $300 million to help an international organization develop a vaccine. This is an additional $200 million from last month’s pledge. Abe has said, “The development of vaccines is in progress, collecting all the wisdom of humans […] we need to be well prepared to deliver them speedily to developing countries once they become available.”

Japan’s health ministry has laid out a plan designed to shorten the time needed to put coronavirus vaccines into practical use and speed up the process by simultaneously promoting both research and development and its production.

The health ministry has earmarked about $455 million, as subsidies to institutions involved in vaccine development in the proposed second supplementary budget for the fiscal year, and also about $1.3 billion in the extra budget to encourage private companies to invest in production facilities.

It normally takes a few years to develop and mass produce a vaccine, but the ministry’s officials say the hope to reduce the time substantially, and to start vaccinating the public in the first half of next year.

Author: Camryn Thomas