Nearly 400 people in Japan have been infected with a new variant of the coronavirus different from those found in Britain, South Africa and Brazil, Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases said Tuesday.
The new strain does, however, share some characteristics with the South African and Brazilian variants, which could mean more reinfections, while current vaccines may be less effective against it, although the British variant is considered more contagious.
Japan’s COVID-19 inoculation drive, meanwhile, is moving at a glacial pace, with around 46,500 doses administered to front-line medical workers as of Friday. By contrast, South Korea, which began its vaccinations a week later than Japan, had administered nearly seven times more shots as of Sunday.
One issue slowing Japan’s rollout has been a lack of special syringes. On Tuesday, the health minister said the government would allow hospitals to administer Pfizer’s vaccine using insulin syringes, which can yield seven shots per vial as opposed to the five possible with the type of syringe the government procured for the COVID-19 inoculation drive.
Despite the delay, some bureaucrats appear to be putting in dangerously long hours in a bid to sort out Japan’s coronavirus policy. Figures showed Friday that staff at the office responsible for the virus response logged an average of 124 hours overtime in January, with one person clocking 391 hours of OT.
Tuesday’s (and last Tuesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (30 or over): Tokyo 290 (232), Saitama 106 (102), Osaka 103 (81), Kanagawa 100 (84), Chiba 82 (87), Hokkaido 63 (29), Hyogo 41 (44), Aichi 39 (34), Miyagi 35 (21), Fukuoka 34 (19), Shiga 32 (11). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker