TOKYO: Japan has managed to fight the coronavirus pandemic through quarantine, social distancing and states of emergency since the global outbreak of the virus began early last year.
The Japanese health ministry, under the directive of Japan’s minister overseeing vaccinations Taro Kono, began administering vaccines to medical staff on Feb. 17.
The country has so far approved only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and started administering the first shots in a Tokyo hospital.
The uphill battle Japan and the rest of the world faced during this pandemic was no easy feat.
On Jan. 16 last year, the Japanese health ministry confirmed the first coronavirus case in the country.
A week later, the foreign ministry issued a level two travel warning for the city of Wuhan in China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
By the end of January, more cases were detected that were either asymptomatic or showed mild symptoms. By February and March, the outbreak had reached most parts of the world, with talks of lockdowns, quarantine and social distancing measures.
Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe announced in March a 270 billion yen ($2.5 billion) emergency economic package to help fight the pandemic as he sought public support for his government’s fight against the outbreak.
Travel restrictions were also put in place and a state of emergency was discussed in Tokyo as cases continued to rise in and out of Japan.
The country opened back up around June and by August cases began to rise again. By November, Japan’s Imperial Household Agency had decided to cancel the 2021 New Year greetings by the Imperial Family to visitors at the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo due to the threat of the virus.
It was the first time that the New Year greetings had been canceled since 1990 following the death of Emperor Hirohito, posthumously named Emperor Showa, in 1989.
On Jan. 2, members of the Imperial Family appear on the balcony of the palace to offer New Year’s greetings to crowds of visitors.
Since the start of the Heisei era in 1989, at least 50,000 people visit to receive royal greetings.
The Imperial Family also greets the public at the palace on the Emperor’s birthday. But visits this year and last year were canceled due to concerns over crowding.
As December rolled around, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations were kept to a minimum, as coronavirus cases began to reach an all-time high. In Jan. 7 of this year, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a new state of emergency in Tokyo.
With vaccines being administered and quarantine measures still in place for travelers, many hope that the situation will subside in time for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Summer Games, despite the obstacles.