Diplomatic Bluebook 2022

Opening Special Feature

The Fight Against the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in 2021

The Fight Against the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in 2021

In 2021, Japan and the world continued to be severely affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In the middle of this unprecedented crisis, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has continued to work for the protection of Japanese nationals exposed to the crisis overseas. In addition, under the principle of “leave no one behind,” MOFA has been working on strengthening its support for ensuring equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics including in developing countries, and bolstering preparedness and response for future pandemics with efforts to achieve universal health coverage (UHC). This Opening Special Feature reflects on the fight against COVID-19, which has entered its second year.

1 Situation of COVID-19 Infections in 2021

In 2021, COVID-19 infections continued to spread throughout the world due to the emergence of highly infectious variants, although there were periods and regions in which the number of infections showed a decreasing trend with the progress of vaccinations. Infections of the Delta variant began to increase in India in early April, and the number of new cases per day reached approximately 400,000 in May. Subsequently, while the resurgence of infections was seen even in the United States and Europe, where vaccination rates were relatively high, the emergence of the Omicron variant, of which the first case was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24, led to a sharp increase in the number of newly infected cases in Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, Asia, and other regions from December onward. Due to this situation, various countries and regions continue to face challenges in handling the issues, such as the promotion of booster (third-dose) vaccinations and struggling to balance infection prevention measures with socioeconomic activities.

Japan is no exception to this, and infections repeatedly rose and fell throughout 2021. Accordingly, priority measures to prevent the spread of disease and emergency measures were applied in many municipalities where there were notable spreads of infections and impacts on the medical and healthcare systems (state of emergency measures were applied in the Tokyo metropolitan area from January 8 to March 21 and from April 25 to September 30). Infections spread rapidly from July to August particularly due to the Delta variant replacing other variants, and 25,975 new cases per day were recorded in Japan on August 20. Following this, the number of new cases decreased rapidly. However, in January 2022, the number of cases surged nationwide at an unprecedented pace due to the global outbreak of the Omicron variant in December. Priority measures to prevent the spread of disease were applied in 34 prefectures throughout Japan. Subsequently, the number of new cases per day has been gradually decreasing since February, and the priority measures to prevent the spread of disease were lifted nationwide on March 21.

As of March 11, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases worldwide was approximately 450.97 million (5.61 million in Japan), and the cumulative number of deaths exceeded 6.01 million (approximately 25,700 in Japan).

Changes in the number of newly infected people by country and region (7-day average)