New COVID-19 infections are spreading rapidly throughout the country. Yokohama has also seen a rise in new cases starting in late June, and 1,380 cases were reported today. Although most people were asymptomatic or showed only mild symptoms, there is a concern that we may see more people with moderate or severe symptoms as the number of cases grows. Yokohama will make robust preparations in anticipation of a 7th wave to prevent the spread of infections and support the health care system.
The Yokohama COVID-19 Call Center will operate 24 hours and a day including weekends and holidays to provide referrals to health care facilities where patients can be tested and receive consultation. We have expanded testing to be available at 1,154 locations as of July 8 so that residents can get tested as well as receive treatment close to where they live.
In addition, to make sure everyone who needs it can be hospitalized, we have set aside a maximum of 888 hospital beds at local medical institutions. In particular, Yokohama Hajime Hospital, established to specialize in COVID-19 treatment, not only helps to hospitalize patients, but is also actively involved in providing early treatment by accepting patients for same-day neutralizing antibody therapy.
To prevent the spread of infection in long term care facilities, we will strengthen support measures by promptly distributing antigen testing kits and further reinforcing the support system for facilities that are not paired with a cooperating medical institution.
It is expected that the number of people recovering at home will increase. We will reinforce the Ward Health Care Center to provide steady health care support and consultation.
Vaccination is considered effective in preventing the onset of symptoms and severe illness. As of July 6, about 60% of the entire population of Yokohama have received a third dose of vaccine, which is the highest rate of booster shots among specially-designated cities with populations of a million or more people. However, while about 90% of residents 65 and older have already been vaccinated, the vaccination rate for those in their 20s and 30s remains at approximately 50%. In order to provide more opportunities for residents to get the booster, we are scaling up Novavax vaccinations to nearly four times the previous level starting next week, alongside other initiatives.
Regarding the 4th vaccination (second booster), we are starting to send out vaccination vouchers to everyone aged 18 and up who have received the 3rd vaccination (first booster) so that those who are eligible can get it as soon as possible. Currently, eligibility is limited to residents 60 and older or to those 18-59 with underlying medical conditions or other circumstances that should be prioritized. However, based on the surging number of new cases, we will request to the national government to expand the scope of those eligible to include health care professionals.
I call on all city departments.
Please continue to ensure that all employees are instructed to follow basic infection prevention measures and avoid behaviors associated with a high risk of infection, both during and outside of work hours.\
In addition to COVID measures and vaccination support, the entire city government continues to provide support for election duties and assistance to displaced Ukrainians. I ask that all departments demonstrate leadership and maintain steady support for their personnel so that “Team Yokohama” can perform with its full capabilities. In particular, please act quickly to establish a support system for Ward Health and Welfare Centers, so that ward personnel facing the coronavirus on the front lines can work together and provide needed services.
Stay aware of the infection situation as well as the needs of residents and businesses to respond in a timely and appropriate manner and fulfill the duties required of each employee.
I call upon our residents for their cooperation.
The summer vacation season is approaching, and a three-day weekend is around the corner. While we expect many will take the opportunity to return home, travel, or attend events, we ask that everyone continue to observe basic infection prevention measures, such as disinfecting your hands, wearing masks, and regularly ventilating rooms.
The weather will likely continue to get hotter. Wear masks properly, but when outside or in places where you can ensure distance from others, remove them and take similar precautions against heat stroke.
If you have not yet received your first booster vaccination, or are someone 60 or older or have an underlying medical condition, we urge you to actively consider getting vaccinated to reduce the risk of experiencing symptoms or severe illness.
A regular election for the House of Councillors is scheduled for July 10. Preventive measures are in place at voting locations, so know that you may place your vote with peace of mind.
I also ask for cooperation from our local businesses.
We ask for your continued cooperation with implementing remote work, rotating shifts, staggered working hours, and other means to help employees reduce contact while at work or when commuting. Please also comply with industry-specific guidelines.
Yokohama will continue to implement all possible measures to prevent the spread of infection and to protect the lives and livelihoods of all residents.
We will remain vigilant and work together with residents and businesses to overcome this situation. Thank you for your cooperation.