Japan Hit with Second Wave of Coronavirus After Lifting Lockdown Too Soon
Spike in new cases detected in northern region of Hokkaido after relaxing measures
Japan has been hit with a second wave of coronavirus after a spike of new cases has been reported in the northern region of Hokkaido this week, according to reports.
The Japanese island has been struck by a fresh outbreak after controversially lifting its lockdown.
Hokkaido was criticized for ending its lockdown on March 19 so that businesses and schools could reopen, which some warned may have been too soon.
The region attempted to return to normality when the number of new cases dropped to just one or two per day.
Only 26 days later, however, Hokkaido has been forced to re-enforce its lockdown and declare a state of emergency as 135 new cases were reported in one week.
Japan has 13,965 cases and 425 deaths and is now expected to extend its national lockdown.
Dr. Kiyoshi Nagase, chairman of the Hokkaido Medical Association, told TIME: "Now I regret it, we should not have lifted the first state of emergency.
"It really may not be until next year that we can safely lift these lockdowns."
The local government had assessed the impact immigration would have on the spread of coronavirus on the island but had not taken into account domestic migration.
Yoko Tsukamoto, a professor of infection control at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido said that with hindsight, the lockdown lift was too early.
"At the time, we didn't have enough information and we did not have an adequate understanding of this disease.
"And, given the information that was available - that new cases were down to one or two a day - it could be argued that the governor made the right decision in lifting the state of emergency.
"We know that was the wrong move now, but then it seemed the best thing to do," she told The Telegraph.
She said: "These lockdowns and states of emergency will have to be lifted eventually, but the lesson is to wait as long as possible, to get accurate data on infection numbers and to be very, very cautious when the rules are relaxed.
"And the authorities have to be ready to move quickly and put the restrictions back in place at the first sign of another surge."
Hokkaido reported 38 new cases on Tuesday, bringing its total number of infections to 688, fifth highest in Japan.
One person also died from the virus taking the island's death toll to 27.
The island of 5.3million people had been a case study in virus-management before they lifted the lockdown, but now experts hope to learn lessons from lifting measures too quickly.
The island's coronavirus cases can be traced back to its Sapporo Snow Festival in February before the initial lockdown was in place, which attracted two million people.
One Chinese tourist was being treated on the island for coronavirus during the festival after contracting it in Wuhan.
118 people were being treated for the virus by March 12, making Hokkaido the worst-hit of all Japan's 47 prefectures.
Japan has 13,965 cases and 425 deaths and is currently maintaining its lockdown until May 6, but the Nikkei business daily reported that the government is planning to extend this by another month.