Casting our eyes overseas briefly, Japan’s COVID numbers have plummeted to their lowest in nearly a year just as other parts of Asia are struggling with surging infections.

New daily cases in Tokyo dropped to 87 on Monday, the lowest tally since November 2 last year, and a big decline from more than 5,000 a day in an August wave that hammered the capital’s medical infrastructure.

After a slow start, Japan has made rapid progress in its vaccination campaign and almost six months of emergency distancing restrictions have likely helped stem the spread of the virus. Japan has vaccinated 61 per cent of its population and the government was gearing up for booster shots to head off breakthrough cases.

Whatever the cause of the lull, experts say time is of the essence to head off another resurgence.

Nevertheless, the speed with which a wave of infections and hospitalisations fuelled by the infectious Delta variant has ebbed away has confounded the experts.

Kyoto University’s Hiroshi Nishiura is among those who believe the summer spike in cases and subsequent plunge were mainly due to trends in human activity. Infectivity, as measured by the effective reproduction number, is correlated with holiday breaks, he said.

But other experts say infection trends have less to do with travel and more to do with regular, seasonal trends.

In news from across the ditch, New Zealand will ease some COVID-19 restrictions in Auckland from tonight, as the government abandons its COVID-zero strategy.

The Delta variant was introduced to New Zealand by a traveller from Australia several months ago, and cases have remained steady since then.

Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles from the University of Auckland said restrictions would be eased in stages.

“They’re going to reassess them after every week, and then decide whether we’re ready to move to the next level, and that will also be based on increasing vaccination rates.

“This is not going to happen any time soon, and if everybody is thinking within three weeks we’ll be back in the shops and back in hospitality, that’s premature.”
The CFMEU said seven of its staff have now tested positive to COVID-19, and that the virus has spread to family members.

In a statement, secretary John Setka called the protestors “selfish idiots” and said many positive cases were very sick with the delta variant.

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