Japan could face a large "ninth wave" of the coronavirus pandemic in the future, a group of experts warned Wednesday, with the health minister noting a recent rise in cases of a new, contagious subvariant of the virus.
"A possibility remains that it will be larger than the eighth wave," the experts said in an opinion presented at their meeting.
The group involves Takaji Wakita, who heads an advisory panel to the health ministry on COVID-19 countermeasures.
"We need to continue to take measures for the elderly, who are at high risk of dying (from the virus), and those with underlying diseases," they said, underscoring the need for booster vaccinations and further efforts to prevent infections in nursing homes and medical institutions.
They also pointed out that due to the aging population, Japan may see its mortality rate remain high compared to other countries.
The number of coronavirus infections in Japan reported in the week through Tuesday was 1.06 times that of the previous week, with 33 out of the 47 prefectures logging an increase, according to the ministry.
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato, who attended the meeting, said the number of new infections has been gradually increasing in Japan while noting an increasing proportion of those being the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant.
"There is a possibility that infections will spread toward this summer," he said.