Experts: Early reopening may raise death toll

Simulations by a group of researchers show that a relatively quick economic reopening in and around Tokyo would reduce financial losses but entail a higher death toll.

The team, led by University of Tokyo Associate Professor Nakata Taisuke and lecturer Fujii Daisuke, conducted simulations on the pace of economic reopening and its impact on local infection rates and the economy.

A state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures ended on Sunday. The simulations are based on an assumption that the current vaccine rollout continues smoothly.

One scenario assumes that economic activities return to the levels seen late last year, before the state of emergency, in about a month's time.

The number of daily new infections in Tokyo would rise to nearly 800 in June, considerably higher than now. But the number would gradually decline partly due to progress in the inoculation program.

The death toll one year from now would be 3,342.

Economic losses would be about 740 million dollars less than if the local economy were to reopen over the course of two months. But the number of deaths would be around 400 higher.

If people lower their guard and hold parties, daily new cases would top 1,300 in May. The death toll in a year from now would be 3,703.

Another projection envisions the declaration of another state of emergency.

That would help reduce the number of new infections, but generate additional economic losses of up to 420 billion yen, or 3.8 billion dollars.

Nakata says the economy should be gradually reopened to avoid strict measures such as those under the state of emergency.

He also warns that actual figures may be higher due to factors not included in the simulations, such as the spread of virus variants.

The group updates its simulations on a weekly basis. Data are available on its website.