Japan braces for second wave of infection

It's been almost one week since the Japanese government lifted its nationwide state of emergency regarding the coronavirus. People are cautiously trickling back to work and schools are starting to reopen with preventive measures in place. But one city is already experiencing a "second wave" of infections.

"We are in the middle of a second wave"

Over 100 facilities in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka have shuttered again following a flareup of infections. The city, which has a population of nearly one million, had only recently loosened business restrictions and stay-at-home requests.

Museums, libraries and the city's Kokura Castle are among the 119 establishments that have suspended operations through June 18.

Kokura Castle
Kokura Castle was reopened to the public on Tuesday but was once again closed on Thursday.

The southwestern city has recorded new infections for nine consecutive days, with 97 cases in that timespan. The infection route is untraceable for 34 of them.

Officials fear there was an outbreak in an elementary school where five children in the same class tested positive. Five additional cases have been confirmed at three other schools.

The affected schools have closed. But other schools in the city remain open for morning classes. The board of education is urging school staff to monitor the physical condition of every student.

"Our city is in the middle of a second wave," says Kitakyushu mayor Kitahashi Kenji. "We'll do our utmost to contain the virus and ask everyone who came into contact with the infected to undergo tests."

Graph: COVID-19 daily cases in Kitakyushu


At a meeting on May 29, a government panel of experts said the country's countermeasures had successfully reduced the number of infections. But they noted there had been an uptick in cases following the end of the spring holidays in early May, and they called for continued vigilance.

The panel also put forth a set of proposals to prepare for a second wave. They say some of the work currently carried out by public health centers should be outsourced to other facilities, so the centers can focus on testing.

They also say that hospitals should prepare beds for large-scale infections in their areas, and that local governments should help make necessary improvements to healthcare facilities.

Preventing clusters

The panel says many in-hospital clusters have broken out due to overcrowded staff lounges and the shared use of computers. It recommends thorough and continual disinfection, and for staff to be tested immediately if there is a suspected onsite infection.

The panel also called on the public to continue avoiding the so-called three Cs: closed spaces, crowded conditions, and conversations in close proximity. The experts say people have to get used to a new reality where social distancing, face masks, and constant hand washing are part of the norm.