100-plus cases for fifth straight day in Tokyo

On Monday, the Tokyo Metropolitan government confirmed 102 new cases of the coronavirus, marking the fifth straight day of over 100 infections. Governor Koike Yuriko, who on Sunday was reelected for a second term, says the city will respond by setting up its own version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

Koike said at a press conference on Monday that Tokyo’s CDC will collect and analyze data from the city’s medical institutions and public health centers. She said the institution would be formed by unifying existing bodies, and would operate during normal times and emergencies.

The day after her reelection, Tokyo governor Koike Yuriko said she would continue to prioritize anti-coronavirus measures.

A new coronavirus subcommittee met for the first time on Monday. It has been tasked with coming up with ways to reopen the economy while also preventing the spread of infection. It replaces the panel of experts that had been advising the government on its policy.

The committee says that many recent infections have been among young people, and that the number of serious cases has been lower. As a result, the country’s healthcare system is not strained in the way it was in early April, when the nationwide state of emergency was declared.

The committee says it supports the government’s plan to ease restrictions on spectator events, on the condition that thorough preventive measures are put in place. Starting on July 10, the government will raise the maximum attendance at events from 1,000 to 5,000.

Japan’s professional baseball and soccer leagues have agreed to welcome back fans to stadiums as soon as the restrictions are lifted. Both leagues resumed play behind closed doors in June.

But experts say no matter how many measures are put in place, it will be impossible to completely eliminate risks. Professor Kaku Mitsuo of Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University says the only way to manage the virus is by resuming social and economic activities very gradually.

The top flight of Japanese soccer, which postponed all matches in February, has resumed play behind closed doors.

Positive rate rises

The positive rate of coronavirus tests in Tokyo has been rising in recent weeks. Government officials say that when the state of emergency was lifted on May 25th, the positive rate in Tokyo stood at around 1%. This figure started edging up in June, exceeding 3% late in the month. On July 1, it hit 4%. Last Sunday, it reached 5.1%.

The number of hospitalized patients has also started to increase. On June 20, there were 204 coronavirus patients in hospitals across Tokyo, the lowest figure since the start of the pandemic. Last Sunday, the number was 369.

The Musashino Red Cross Hospital on the western outskirts of Tokyo currently has 12 coronavirus patients. None of the cases are believed to be serious enough to require prolonged hospitalization.

“We are under much less pressure now,” says Dr. Izumi Namiki, the hospital’s director. “But if infections start spreading among Tokyo’s elderly population, this could place a serious strain on the medical system. Every effort needs to be made to ensure that this doesn’t happen.”