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Epidemiology of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Japan during the first and second waves.

Abstract

Following the emergence and worldwide spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), each country has attempted to control the disease in different ways. The first patient with COVID-19 in Japan was diagnosed on 15 January 2020, and until 31 October 2020, the epidemic was characterized by two large waves. To prevent the first wave, the Japanese government imposed several control measures such as advising the public to avoid the 3Cs (closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places with many people nearby, and close-contact settings such as close-range conversations) and implementation of "cluster buster" strategies. After a major epidemic occurred in April 2020 (the first wave), Japan asked its citizens to limit their numbers of physical contacts and announced a non-legally binding state of emergency. Following a drop in the number of diagnosed cases, the state of emergency was gradually relaxed and then lifted in all prefectures of Japan by 25 May 2020. However, the development of another major epidemic (the second wave) could not be prevented because of continued chains of transmission, especially in urban locations. The present study aimed to descriptively examine propagation of the COVID-19 epidemic in Japan with respect to time, age, space, and interventions implemented during the first and second waves. Using publicly available data, we calculated the effective reproduction number and its associations with the timing of measures imposed to suppress transmission. Finally, we crudely calculated the proportions of severe and fatal COVID-19 cases during the first and second waves. Our analysis identified key characteristics of COVID-19, including density dependence and also the age dependence in the risk of severe outcomes. We also identified that the effective reproduction number during the state of emergency was maintained below the value of 1 during the first wave.

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