Japan confirms 1,308 new COVID-19 infections ahead of 1st vaccine rollout

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TOKYO, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) — Japan on Tuesday confirmed 1,308 new daily COVID-19 infections, bringing the nation’s overall tally of cases to 419,765, with the country ready to begin the initial step of its first vaccine rollout on Wednesday to medical workers.

The death toll currently stands at 7,157 people, with 27 deaths confirmed nationwide on Tuesday, the latest figures showed.

The Tokyo metropolitan government on Tuesday reported 350 new daily COVID-19 infections, bringing the cumulative total of cases in the capital to 107,959.

The latest figure marks the tenth successive day the daily tally of infections has remained below the 500-mark.

Of those testing positive Tuesday, the metropolitan government said 157 people are close contacts of people who have already been confirmed to be infected.

In the other 193 cases, however, the transmission route remained unknown, the local government said.

The majority of those testing positive were aged in their 20s, followed by those aged in their 50s, according to the latest statistics.

The third-highest age category of COVID-19-positive people in the capital, meanwhile, were aged in their 30s, the statistics showed.

The local government in the city of 14 million also said that those designated as being “seriously ill” stood at 92, compared to 97 patients reported the previous day.

Seriously ill patients are likely to need intensive care treatment on COVID-specific ICU wards and with some of them needing respirators.

The death toll in Tokyo, the hardest hit by the virus among Japan’s 47 prefectures since the outbreak of the pandemic, has risen to 1,164 people, according to the latest figures released Tuesday evening.

Japan will begin the first stage of inoculating its population against the novel coronavirus, with Regulatory Reform Minister Taro Kono saying Tuesday that 40,000 medical workers will receive the jabs from Wednesday, double the number initially planned.

“We are about to start vaccinating, which is said to be the strongest weapon in the fight against the coronavirus,” Kono, who also serves as Japan’s minister in charge of the vaccination program, told a press briefing on the matter.

Kono said the doubling of healthcare workers being administered the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs was down to more in the professions volunteering for a study to track potential side effects and related details.

The study will still proceed with 20,000 doctors and nurses spanning 100 hospitals across the country, Kono said.

They will be asked to keep daily records for seven weeks after receiving the first of two jabs, he added.

In March, around 3.7 million health workers will also begin receiving the vaccine, followed by 36 million people aged 65 or older from April.

A second shipment of the Pfizer vaccine is scheduled to arrive from Europe next week, Kono said, to ensure there are enough doses to vaccinate the elderly in Japan’s rapidly aging society.

Following the elderly, those with preexisting conditions and those working at elderly care facilities will be next in line to be vaccinated, followed by the rest of the population.

A batch of around 400,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses arrived last Friday at Narita airport near Tokyo from Brussels, with a health ministry panel green-lighting the use of the vaccine amid the ongoing pandemic here, which is weighing heavily on the country’s medical system.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, thereafter, formally approved the country’s first vaccine on Sunday for people aged 16 or older.

“I hope many people will take the vaccine with an understanding of the benefits and risks,” Kono said. Enditem

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