‘Suga was better after all’

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‘Suga was better after all’

The author is the Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. 

 More than 20,000 positive cases of Covid-19 are confirmed daily in Tokyo, but it seems peaceful at first glance. Department stores in Ginza are crowded during the day, and office workers flock to bars in Shinbashi to drink before the closing at 9 p.m. I hear about confirmed cases in the building almost every day, but no one is surprised any more.

But this peace is hanging by a thread. Over the weekend, I had a headache and wanted to get a self-test. I visited several pharmacies in the neighborhood, but the kit was sold out everywhere. It is simply impossible to get tested even if you want to.

It’s been over six months since the second dose of vaccination, but a booster shot is not available. Based on its own standard, the Japanese government decided to offer booster shots eight months after the second dose. As the Omicron variant spread quickly, the interval between a second dose and a booster shot was reduced to seven months, and then to six months again. But local governments responded slowly. I managed to get a vaccination ticket and visited the appointment website, which stated that people under 64 are eligible from March 1. The booster shot vaccination rate is merely 5 percent in Japan now. I heard that some vaccine sites are empty because people are not willing to get Moderna. Why can’t I sign up?

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida started out as a “beneficiary” of the pandemic. After he took office in October 2021, the number of confirmed cases in Japan declined mysteriously, and he was considered to be doing well without doing anything. While experts warned that the next wave would come for sure, he had his hands off the booster administration. As the Omicron variant started to spread, all he did was hurriedly close the border again.

Nowadays, people say, “Suga was better after all.” Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga managed to host the Olympics amid the fierce wave of Delta variant and pushed for 1 million dose vaccine administration a day. It seemed impossible at first, but 79 percent of the citizens completed two-dose vaccinations. That’s how he prepared an easy ride for Prime Minister Kishida.

While Omicron infection is less likely to develop into serious conditions, the situation is different in Japan, where even most of the elderly have not got a booster shot yet. In fact, the rates of developing severe Covid and death of the elderly continue to rise. Kishida announced the goal to administer 1 million doses a day on Feb. 7. Japanese people have entered the phase where they cannot rely on anyone and have to seek own way of survival from the Omicron variant.

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