Public health


The Shiga Prefectural Government to broaden the PCR test capacities to a maximum of 600 per day

To deal with COVID-19, the Shiga Prefectural Government (SPG) plans to broaden the PCR test capacities to a maximum of 600 per day - Governor Mikazuki Taizo unveiled the plan on September 4 at a policy meeting with the Team Shiga, a group backing the governor at the Shiga Prefectural Assembly. The budgetary proposal, including the enhancement of the PCR test capacities, is to be discussed at the upcoming September Assembly.

As of September 4, in Shiga, PCR testing functions are shared among several medical institutions such as the Institute of Public Health and the Outpatient Facilities for Returnees and Potential Contact Persons at local hospitals. The current capabilities enable approximately 200 PCR tests per day. Once the Prefectural Assembly approves the proposal, the SPG will enhance the PCR testing system, making it possible to conduct 600 PCR tests per day. The SPG estimates that it will have to work 730 per day at the maximum.

Sumida Koya, a member of the Shiga Prefectural Assembly, asked the governor about how to deal with requests to take PCR tests made by the staff working at medical/nursing facilities. Governor Mikazuki said, “We are on a stance that we should prioritize the immediate needs of those who need to take tests. If symptoms, which a doctor deems it necessary to look at, can be seen among the medical/caregiving profession, the public-funded testing will be in place.“

(Chunichi Shimbun, September 5, 2020)



COVID-19: The Shiga Prefecture is to introduce a new measure combining the conformance statement system with the "Moshi Sapo Shiga" system.

The Shiga Prefectural Government (SPG) introduced the conformance statement system proving that a shop or an office shows that they abide by the guidance to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. However, the statement system couldn't be more disseminated than expected.

The SPG announced on August 13 that it would introduce a new measure combining the statement system with the "Moshi Sapo Shiga" system, which keeps track of visitors staying at each shop/office.

The format of the statement was downloadable freely, but the new measure requires businesses to acquire a QR code for the “Moshi Sapo Shiga” when obtaining the said form. By combining the two, the SPG expects that the number of users for them will increase.

The SPG plans to publicize names of shops/offices on the prefecture’s official website if reaching a consensus with the said business.

(Chunichi Shimbun, August 14, 2020)



The Shiga Prefectural Government unveiled a draft report examining the effectiveness of its measures dealing with COVID-19

On June 22, the Shiga Prefectural Government unveiled a draft report examining the effectiveness of the prefecture’s measures dealing with COVID-19. According to the draft titled “Recapitulation and Future Direction,” the emergency measures implemented gradually from late April were effective in preventing the infection from spreading.

On the other hand, the draft also points out that the measures triggered the stagnation of movements of people and products, impacting socio-economic activities. Besides, regarding the second wave predictably coming shortly, the draft underscores two points: the necessity of being careful of requesting businesses to temporarily closing their facilities and shops, and the importance of limiting their categories and areas.

As for the trend development of infection in Shiga, it peaked on around April 3 on an onset-of-symptoms basis, two weeks before the declaration of the state of emergency by the national government. According to the analysis, the infection spread during the three-consecutive national holidays in late March. There seems to have had a trend of Shiga following Osaka’s and Kyoto’s; after the number of patients in the two close prefectures increased, Shiga’s patients also increased.

Furthermore, in the draft, the Shiga Prefectural Government has summarized eight categories, such as the infection prevention programs, the medical care provision system, and economic/employment revitalization programs. Each category has the current initiatives, challenges, and prospective countermeasures to deal with the second wave.

Concerning the medical care provision system, for example, it is pointed out that handling COVID-19 has inflicted a financial burden on the hospitals, affecting medical treatment for other diseases. From now on, there will be 140 beds kept for the COVID-19 patients, and they will increase gradually preceding the increase of patients.

(The Nikkei, June 22, 2020)



COVID-19: Shiga Prefecture has shifted the “Warning Stage” to the “Cautious Stage.”

The Shiga Prefectural Government announced on June 6 that the current “Warning Stage” would shift to the “Cautious Stage,” the lowest alert level, at 0:00 am on June 7. The reason was that there was no patient reported in the consecutive 14 days. While recognizing that the infection situation is stable, the prefecture is going to call for the citizens to avoid 3 Cs, namely “confined spaces,” “crowded places,” and “close contact with people.”

Although the stage shifts, there will not be any difference regarding anti-corona virus measures adopted by the Shiga Prefectural Government. By June 18, the prefecture continues to request the citizens of refraining from visiting areas such as Tokyo and Hokkaido, where there are new patients reported regularly. The prefecture also unveiled its policy on how to lessen the regulation regarding events gradually every three weeks.

In a statement on the same day, Governor Mikazuki says, “From now on, we will gradually raise the level of socio-economic activities while making our efforts to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Let’s move forward together.”

(Chunichi Shimbun, June 7, 2020)



Shiga Prefecture lifted business shutdown requests regarding COVID-19.

The Shiga Prefectural Government, having responded to the release of the state of emergency by the national government, eased business shutdown requests at 0:00 am on May 15. The prefecture, however, continues to request businesses of thorough measures such as controlling the number of customers and ensuring social distancing. Besides, citizens are encouraged to refrain from visiting bars and restaurants featuring entertainment and from crossing prefectural borders.

At a May 14 meeting of the Council on New Coronavirus Infection Control Measures, Governor Mikazuki says, “There has been no patient infected for ten consecutive days thanks to the various requests and measures. I would like to express my appreciation for the citizens who abided by the requests.” The governor also unveiled three categories to describe an infection status in Shiga set by the prefectural government, underscoring the current status as the “Warning Stage.”

Mr. Mikazuki also mentioned that the prefectural high/junior high/special support schools, now closing down, are in the preparation process of reopening on June 1. With Osaka and Kyoto still facing serious challenges, the governor pointed out the need for the citizens to brace themselves, saying “we still cannot let our guard down.”

(Kyoto Shimbun, May 15, 2020)



Shiga Prefecture to take employment creation initiatives aimed at those who lost their jobs

On May 8, the Shiga Prefectural Government held a meeting of the Task Force for Comprehensive Economic and Employment Measures, showing its policy to take the prefecture-led employment creation initiatives aimed at those who lost their jobs due to the spread of the COVID-19. The first package will be proposed in May, followed by the second one in June.

Governor Mikazuki says, “the recent self‐imposed control has made the business environment worse, causing instability of employment,” unveiling that the prefecture is formulating measures including directly employing temporal workers. The measures will also be designed for the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries to hire seasonal workers.

Besides, the Shiga Prefectural Government, in cooperation with the Shiga Social Security Consultant Association, will help disseminate and facilitate the Employment Adjustment Subsidy, which financially supports private corporations suspending their business operations.

(Chunichi Shimbun, May 9, 2020)



Medical Testing Center for Outpatients to be newly established in four regions: Otsu, Takashima, Konan-Koga, and Higashiomi.

The Shiga Prefecture Council on New Coronavirus Infection Control Measures held a meeting on May 4 at the Shiga Prefecture Crisis Management Center. The Council, comprised of key organizations such as the Shiga Prefectural Government, the Shiga Medical Association, and the Shiga Prefecture Hospital Association, decided to establish the “Medical Testing Center for Outpatients” in four regions in the prefecture to strengthen the PCR testing system.

According to the prefectural government, the establishment of the new Centers will enable potential patients to take tests without being introduced by the existing Consultation Center for Returnees and Contacts. At least one Center will be established in the four regions respectively, namely Otsu, Takashima, Konan-Koga, and Higashiomi.

The number of beds for patients infected with COVID-19 is currently 109 and is expected to reach 140 by the end of May. The infection rate resulting from PCR tests was 8% at its peak in early April, but it dropped to 0.6% as of May 1. A Shiga official of the Department of Public Health Care and Welfare says, “Just like the national trend, viral infection cannot be confirmed largely in cities and towns.”

(Chunichi Shimbun , May 5, 2020)



The number of visitors from other prefectures has inched up since the first day of Golden Week holidays

On May 1, the Information Policy Division of the Shiga Prefectural Government, intending to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, disclosed the results of the state of the moving population, utilizing big data in analyzing positional information provided by the IT giant Yahoo. The results show the number of visitors from other prefectures has inched up since the first day of Golden Week holidays.

According to the Division, the number of visitors from other prefectures was steadily decreasing between the early and late April, by 66% of the reduction compared to the same period of the previous year. This trend, however, was reversed on April 29, the first day of Golden Week, with the number slightly being increased compared to the previous week, even if the number was reduced by approximately 60% compared to the previous year.

Analyzed by age, it has turned out that the number of teenagers increased at commercial facilities in front of JR Otsukyo Station and Kusatsu Station West Gate in comparison to the last year. This state might be because schools have been closed.

Through its relevant research, youngsters such as teenagers living in Shiga have turned out to be less motivated with precautions against COVID-19. According to a questionnaire survey targeted at Shiga’s citizens through LINE, a freeware app for instant communications, those who belonged to the category of students showed a higher ratio of “Nothing done for precautions.”

The survey results can be accessed at the official website of the Shiga Prefectural Government.

(Chunichi Shimbun, May 3, 2020)



328 were hospitalized in August due to heat stroke

There were 328 citizens hospitalized in August in the prefecture due to heat stroke, increasing by 120 compared with the same month of a year earlier, Shiga Prefectural Government says. This record is the second largest on a monthly-basis in history while the largest number reported ever is 341 in August 2010. It is presumed that there were many citizens who restrained themselves from using air conditioners for eco-conscious reasons and extremely hot days which continued exceeding 35 degrees Celsius.

According to Shiga Prefectural Government, there were 144 elderly people over 65 years old, and 48 juveniles under 19 years old, constituting 59% of the total. Of those, 3 patients were hospitalized for more than three weeks, and 72 were temporarily hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

When faced with lingering summer heat, everyone is advised to drink water and to use air-conditioners properly," says an official from the Senior Citizens' Vitality and Welfare Division.

(Sankei Shimbun, September 6, 2013)



Be cautious of toxic mushroom propagating in Shiga

Kaentake, a toxic mushroom scientifically called Podostroma cornu-damae , was found at the neighborhood of the Prefectural Forest Research Center in Kitazakura, Yasu City. The Center confirmed this species has been found for three years in a row. With the mushroom having been found in Koka City as well, the Center believes the species is propagating throughout the prefecture, and warns the public not to touch nor eat it.

Kaentake is 3 to 5 centimeters in height, looking like human fingers painted red. Trichothecene, a toxin contained in the mushroom, makes you suffer from diarrhea and vomiting, leading to mobility impairment and even death.

Under the condition of being raw, the lethal dose of the toxin is 3 grams, and there was a fatal case reported in Niigata Prefecture in 1999. Even if you survived, you might suffer from aftereffects of your cerebellum damaged, let alone dermatitis.

This summer has been hot and humid since July due to intense heat and unexpectedly strong rain, which gives good conditions for the fungus to propagate. The mushroom usually can be seen near dead trees, but a specialist from the Center says there has been reported that Kaentake was even found near living trees. "Don't touch it from out of curiosity," says the specialist.

(Chunichi Shimbun, August 16, 2013)