How is Japan doing with Covid a month before the Olympics?

How is Japan doing with Covid a month before the Olympics?

With a month to go to the Tokyo Olympics and a newly lifted state of emergency in most parts of the country, Japan is seeing relatively low coronavirus cases after rising last month. But the country’s low vaccination rate, especially when compared to other rich countries, and the rising variants there have in recent weeks led some health professionals to raise concerns about the Games or to call for them to be canceled.

While athletes and coaches from almost every country in the world prepare for relegation to Japan, where tens of thousands of residents work or participate in the Games, only 7 percent of the country’s residents are fully vaccinated, compared to about a quarter of the population or more in most other rich countries. About 18 percent have received at least one vaccination, making Japan’s vaccination rate among the lowest of its competitors, leaving the population vulnerable at a time when the delta variant is on the rise and predicted to become dominant.

Japan’s low vaccination rate

Proportion of all residents who are fully vaccinated

Among the 50 richest countries

Among the 50 richest countries

Among the 50 richest countries

Source: Our world in data, World Bank

When the cases reached a new high in April and more contagious variants took hold, the Japanese government declared the third state of emergency for Tokyo and other areas, which eventually included 10 prefectures. This weekend, as cases continued to decline, Japan ended emergency response procedures in most prefectures, but will maintain some targeted restrictions in Tokyo and elsewhere. The state of emergency was not as severe as the total lockdown in some other countries, but it did mean that restaurants were urged to shorten their hours, some shopping malls and cinemas closed, and establishments banned from selling alcohol.

Japan has managed to keep cases relatively low throughout the pandemic compared to other rich countries, although variants have made it difficult to control recent outbreaks. Even then, Japan’s peak of reported cases in May was comparatively low when you adjust its 128 million population, even though Japan tested at a much lower rate than other countries. At its peak, Japan reported an average of nearly 6,500 new coronavirus cases per day, or about five new reported cases per day per 100,000 people. The United States, on the other hand, was reporting more than 76 new cases per 100,000 per day at its worst in January.

New cases in Japan per day, 7-day average

April 1st,

January 1st

June 21st,




7th of April

First state of emergency declared.

January 7th

Second state of emergency declared.

April 23

Third state of emergency declared.

20th June

Emergency measures relaxed.



6,000 cases

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University

So far, around every 161 Japanese residents have tested positive for the virus. For example, in the United States, that number is roughly one in ten. Japan’s relatively low number of cases from the pandemic suggests that the country’s level of natural immunity is also much lower than many other countries in the world.

Japan, like some other countries that performed relatively well during the pandemic, has one of the slowest vaccine launches in rich countries. Part of the reason for the delayed start is because the country is requiring its own vaccine trials domestically, so Japan didn’t approve its first vaccine, the Pfizer Shot, for more than two months after the UK and US.

Experts also say the government failed to negotiate contracts that would have resulted in early vaccine doses, perhaps because its earlier success in containing the virus has resulted in reduced urgency with vaccines.

But with the Olympics on the horizon and increasing pressure – a poll in May found that more than 80 percent of Japanese people surveyed didn’t want their home country to host the Games this summer – the Japanese vaccine campaign has accelerated in recent weeks. After giving less than 100,000 doses a day in April, Japan now gives an average of nearly a million syringes a day.

After the government only used Pfizer for the first few months of the vaccine campaign, the government approved two more vaccines, Moderna and AstraZeneca, in late May. Of the two, only Moderna has been used in the country so far. And on June 17, all Japanese adults were eligible for an initial vaccination at state sites. Until then, only people aged 65 and over could be vaccinated.

Japan’s vaccination campaign accelerates

February 17th

June 21st

May 21

Government approves Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. Pfizer was already available.

12. April

People aged 65 and over are eligible for the vaccine.

February 17th

Two months after many other countries, Japan is giving health care workers the first shots of the Covid vaccine.

At least
a dose






Source: Our world in data

With the accelerated rollout of vaccines and the declining number of coronavirus cases, the Tokyo Olympics organizers have decided to allow domestic viewers to attend the Games, with a limit of up to 10,000 fans per venue. However, the public is not convinced: a poll over the weekend showed that 86 percent of those questioned fear that there will be a recovery after the Olympics.

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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