Japan Faces Record Level COVID-19 Cases, As Monkeypox Cases Escalate

Francesca Odimgbe

Japan has posted an all-time record of 200,975 fresh cases of COVID-19,according to data released on July 23.

The figure surpassed the 200,000 mark for the first time and making it the fourth consecutive day of a daily high since the pandemic struck in 2020.

Of the nation’s 47 prefectures, 17 reported record numbers of cases in the latest and seventh wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant.

Health authorities announced 72 related deaths nationwide the same day.

The number of new cases on July 23 compared with 110,655 a week earlier, raising concerns that the nation should brace for a sharp upsurge in cases in the coming weeks amid the summer break while schools are closed.

Japan logged 110,655 new cases on July 16, surpassing the peak of the sixth wave of infections in February.

Four days later, the number shot up to more than 150,000 and in excess of 195,000 on July 22.

In a related development, the government announced July 23 that Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno was confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus earlier in the day.

Matsuno, 59, developed a fever on the evening of July 22. He is displaying no symptoms now and resting at home, according to government officials.

They said he did not have any close contact with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida or other key officials during the course of performing his duties.

Meanwhile, monkeypox outbreak has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

The classification is the highest alert that the WHO can issue and follows a worldwide upsurge in cases.

It came at the end of the second meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee on the virus.

More than 16,000 cases have now been reported from 75 countries, said WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

There had been five deaths so far as a result of the outbreak, he added.

There are only two other such health emergencies at present – the coronavirus pandemic and the continuing effort to eradicate polio.

Dr Tedros said the emergency committee had been unable to reach a consensus on whether the monkeypox outbreak should be classified as a global health emergency.

However, he said the outbreak had spread around the world rapidly and he had decided that it was indeed of international concern.

Too little was understood about the new modes of transmission which had allowed it to spread, said Dr Tedros.

“The WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region, where we assess the risk as high,” he added.

There was also a clear risk of further international spread, although the risk of interference with international traffic remained low for the moment, he said.

Dr Tedros said the declaration would help speed up the development of vaccines and the implementation of measures to limit the spread of the virus.

The WHO is also issuing recommendations which it hopes will spur countries to take action to stop transmission of the virus and protect those most at risk.

“This is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups,” Dr Tedros said.

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