The recent surge in coronavirus infections in Japan reflects the rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant and has started to take a toll on essential infrastructure and services, such as public transport, nursery schools and waste collection, in addition to the medical system.
If the delta variant continues to spread at the current pace, it may have dire consequences for society at large, experts warn.
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, a total of 165 nurseries and kodomoen nursery-kindergarten hybrids in 10 prefectures had been completely closed as of Aug. 19 due to the discovery of infection cases among people related to the facilities. Meanwhile, 4,229 such child care facilities have reported coronavirus infections to date.
Clusters of infections have occurred not only at such facilities but also at special facilities for children with disabilities.
One nursery in the Tokyo metropolitan area was forced to close for two weeks this month due to multiple infection cases among its children and staff. It was the first time for the facility to confirm infections.
“I realized the infectiousness of the delta variant,” said the head of the nursery. “Society’s functions may already be starting to collapse, little by little.”
“I can’t close my nursery again,” she added, noting that a closure would impact children’s parents, some of whom are medical workers. “Staff members are working overtime to thoroughly disinfect toys and other items.”
West Japan Railway Co., or JR West, is reducing the number of services on the Nanao Line in Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan, following the confirmation of an infection cluster involving 13 train drivers.
In Tokyo’s Taito Ward, infections among several members of its garbage collection office has led to the suspension of non-combustible waste collection through the end of August.
The Ouchi Co-op food delivery service run by consumer cooperative U Co-op has been forced to suspend the deliveries of fruits and vegetables until early next month after several employees at its sorting center were found to have COVID-19.
“If infections spread at the current pace, it won’t only be the medical system that’s strained,” Takaji Wakita, head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said. “Infrastructure, transport and logistics may also see effects.”
Wakita reiterated his call for people to avoid going out, saying that it is important for people to know the severity of the current situation.
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