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Japan reports no COVID-19 deaths for the first time in 15 months

An arriving passenger at the Tokyo international airport
A passenger arrives on an overseas flight at the international airport in Tokyo on Monday.
(Koji Sasahara / Associated Press)

Japan reported no daily deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday for the first time in 15 months, as infections decline rapidly in the country.

Health officials said Monday that there were no deaths the previous day, keeping Japan’s total COVID-19 death toll at 18,310 since the pandemic began.

Japan on Monday also eased entry restrictions for foreign students, workers and short-term business travelers who are fully vaccinated, have their activity plans guaranteed by sponsors and observe 10 days of self-isolation.

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Self-quarantine for Japanese citizens and foreign residents was shortened to three days from the previous 10 days.

The last time Japan reported no new COVID-19 deaths was Aug. 2, 2020, according to the health ministry.

Japan was then hit by several waves of infections, including one led by the Delta variant over the summer, when daily cases peaked at around 25,000. Healthcare systems came close to collapse, and tens of thousands of patients who were unable to find hospital beds had to recover at home. In Tokyo, with the Summer Olympics then underway, new daily cases rose to nearly 6,000.

Almost overnight, Japan has become an extraordinary, and somewhat mysterious, success story in its efforts to contain the coronavirus.

The numbers started falling in September. Experts have attributed the decline to vaccination progress as well as widespread mask-wearing and use of disinfectants, among other reasons.

Vaccinations in Japan, despite a slow start, accelerated in June, and now nearly 74% of the population is fully immunized. The government plans to begin booster shots in December and also secure newly developed COVID-19 treatment pills.

Japan is gradually expanding social and economic activities, although experts caution against easing restrictions too quickly.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, who heads a government coronavirus panel, stressed the need to catch early signs of any upsurge in cases and take necessary steps without delay.


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