Japan is currently facing a dire situation as COVID-19 and influenza infections continue to rise simultaneously, creating what health officials are calling a catastrophic twindemic. The latest reports from Japan’s health ministry have revealed a deeply concerning trend, with both viral outbreaks intensifying at an alarming rate.
In terms of COVID-19, Japan has witnessed a surge in cases for the third consecutive week. Over 5,000 medical institutions across the country reported a staggering 17,379 cases in the seven-day period leading up to last Sunday. This marks a significant increase from the previous week, and the average number of patients per institution has also risen, reaching 3.52 nationwide. This concerning upward trajectory is being observed in all 47 prefectures, with Hokkaido leading the way with the highest average number of patients per institution, closely followed by Yamanashi, Nagano, Gifu, and Aichi. Hospitalizations have also seen a notable surge, with 1,468 reported cases, reflecting an increase of 445 from the preceding week.
Adding to the challenge, Japan is also grappling with a rapidly spreading flu outbreak. The number of influenza patients at designated medical institutions nationwide has reached warning levels at an unprecedented pace. Approximately 5,000 institutions reported 166,690 flu patients in the week leading up to December 10, surpassing the warning level of 30 people per facility. The accelerated spread of the flu can be attributed to reduced immunity resulting from years of declining cases, coupled with the anti-infection measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health experts have highlighted that the influenza virus is spreading approximately a month earlier than usual.
The simultaneous surge in COVID-19 and flu cases has raised concerns among health authorities, particularly with year-end and New Year’s social gatherings taking place in Japan. To mitigate the impact, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare issued a caution against the flu in October, emphasizing the importance of individual preventive measures such as vaccination, mask-wearing, and avoiding crowded places.
As Japan confronts this unprecedented challenge of a twindemic, it is crucial for the nation to prioritize stringent preventive measures to curb the escalating spread of both COVID-19 and influenza. A unified response from the public, policymakers, and health authorities is essential in navigating this perilous winter season and safeguarding the well-being of the population.