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The number of registered bone marrow donor candidates has fallen for the first time since the registration system began in 1992, it was learned Sunday.

As of the end of September this year, registered candidates were 896 fewer than six months prior, dragged down by the novel coronavirus epidemic, according to the Japan Marrow Donor Registry Promotion Conference.

The spread of the virus led the government to declare a state of emergency in April. Requests for voluntary restrictions on going out were introduced across the country.

Against that background, it became difficult to solicit candidates at blood donation centers and mobile blood collection buses belonging to the Japanese Red Cross Society, key venues where registrations for bone marrow donations are solicited.

Usually, the monthly number of new bone marrow donor registrations ranges roughly between 2,000 and 4,000, according to officials at the donor registration promotion body and elsewhere.

The number shot up to 11,662 in February 2019, when swimming star Rikako Ikee announced her leukemia diagnosis. Bone marrow transplants are used to treat leukemia, aplastic anemia and some other diseases.

Meanwhile, those who reach the age limit of 55 are deregistered.

From fiscal 2008, the total number of registered donor candidates showed a net annual increase of 6,000 to 28,000.

This year, the monthly number of newly registered candidates stood at 3,293 in January, when the country’s first coronavirus case was confirmed.

The number stayed around 3,000 in February and March but slumped to 873 in April, when the state of emergency was issued.

The number remained low at 782 in May, when the state of emergency was lifted.

Newly registered candidates numbered 1,562 in June. The monthly number ranged between some 2,300 and 2,600 from July to September.

But those deregistered outpaced newly registered candidates in some months. The total number of registered candidates logged a net decrease of 1,170 in April and about 1,000 in May.

As a result, the end-September number, which came to 529,069 on a preliminary basis, stood below the level at the end of the previous fiscal year through March.

“It became difficult to send blood collection buses to universities and companies due to the nationwide school closure and voluntary restrictions on going out under the state of emergency declaration,” said Yuichi Yamazaki, a senior official of the donor registration promotion body.

“As a result, registrations of young people in their 20s and 30s decreased sharply,” he said, also citing restrictions on donor soliciting at blood donation centers as a major negative factor.

The number of registered donor candidates may not recover before 2021, he said.

“We want to resume donor soliciting if operations of blood collection buses return to normal,” Yamazaki also said.

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