Japan passes 10,000 domestic cases of Covid-19, lesser cases in S. Korea


A group of Ainu, an indigenous people in Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, pray during a ritual to expel the plague god under a state of emergency following the coronavirus disease outbreak in Teshikaga, Hokkaido, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo on Sunday (April 19). - Reuters

TOKYO: Japanese health ministry said on Sunday (April 19) that 568 new cases of the coronavirus were reported the day before, bringing a domestic total to 10,361. A combined total including 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year came to 11,073, with 174 deaths.

The number of cases is still relatively small compared to the US and Europe, but that’s only as many as Japan’s limited testing has detected and actual infections are believed to be far more widespread.

Japan has finally started setting up additional testing centers in Tokyo and elsewhere, allowing primary care doctors to send suspected patients directly to testing stations rather than having them go through public health centers to screen eligibility, an earlier requirement that had prevented and delayed testing and treatment of many people.

Experts have noted that their strategy of going after clusters to trace infections is no longer effective to keep up with the surging cases and more tests are needed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday expanded a state of emergency, which was limited to Tokyo and six other urban areas, to all of Japan, in a bid to prevent further spread of the virus nationwide amid concerns that hospitals are already overburdened with influx of patients.

It took two months for the cases to reach 1,000 since the first case was detected in mid-January, but the spread of the infections has accelerated in recent weeks and the number doubled from around 5,000 in just 10 days.

Meanwhile, South Korea has reported eight more cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, the first time for a daily jump in the country to drop to a single digit in about two months.

The Korea Centere for Disease Control and Prevention says the additional figures released on Sunday took the country’s total to 10,661 with 234 deaths.

It says 8,042 of the total have been recovered and released from quarantine and that 12,243 others were under tests to determine whether they contracted the virus.

South Korea’s caseload has been waning in recent weeks since it recorded hundreds of new cases every day between late February and early March, mostly in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas.

Despite the recent downward trend, South Korean officials have warned about the possibility of a broader "quiet spread” with people easing up on social distancing. - AP
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