September 1, 2021
University of the Ryukyus
Three months have passed since the state of emergency was declared on May 23 for Okinawa Prefecture. Since last academic year, the University of the Ryukyus has been working hard on measures against COVID-19 infection such as setting up various helpdesks, including the Health Administration Center, for COVID-19 related inquiries as well as on the implementation of infection prevention measures at lecture buildings and the expansion of online classes to ensure the continuation of learning. As the basis of online learning, the information and communication environment has been improved as well. Furthermore, we started providing mass vaccination at the university last month. As the President of the university, I would love to express my sincere gratitude to all the students, faculty and staff members involved in these efforts.
Amid such efforts, Okinawa confirmed 809 new cases on August 25, which was the record of the number of new cases per day. Although the prefecture’s healthcare facilities have been making efforts to strengthen its structure, such as by increasing the number of beds to receive patients, Okinawa prefecture’s Expert Meeting on COVID-19 Control Measures presented the view that the healthcare system has started to collapse due to the increase in the number of COVID-19 patients.
At our university, we receive several reports on new cases or suspected cases daily. However, we see an increase in the number of cases where public health centers are unavailable to provide instructions or are out of reach for contact. I feel that the healthcare system is overwhelmed at a crisis level.
It is believed that the rapid spread of COVID-19 in recent days is largely due to the replacement of the conventional variant with the delta variant. With the delta variant, it is said that almost everyone will be infected when it spreads to a household. It is also found that you can get infected by having a little chat at a few-minute coffee break. These show its high infectivity. The scary part of the delta variant is the rate of severe cases and transmissibility to children. We must understand the seriousness of the matter.
It is dangerous to take it lightly and dine with friends, thinking "it will be okay because I have not been infected so far." Imagine a situation where it resulted in getting infected and infecting many people including your family, friends, and colleagues. Some might get severe symptoms. In the worst-case scenario, some might even lose their lives. That will leave you with a lifetime of regret. Also, considering the healthcare system, your behavior could worsen the exhaustion of healthcare professionals and the depletion of medical resources. As a result, some people might be unable to receive medical treatment for their infection and possibly lose their lives or suffer from aftereffects. In Okinawa prefecture, educations at elementary, secondary, and high schools also met with restrictions. Cases of pregnant women are increasing. In addition, people with other diseases will be unable to receive the treatments or surgeries they are supposed to receive if the healthcare system continues to be overwhelmed. In other words, the careless behavior of individuals can accelerate the vicious cycle.
Okinawa Prefecture has issued an Emergency Joint Message, and they made three “requests” to all Okinawa citizens. These are “do not go out and do not get together outside or at home”, “refrain from going to and from other prefectures and remote islands, including returning to your hometown”, and “we strongly encourage you to get a COVID-19 vaccine which is confirmed to be highly effective in preventing the spread of infectious diseases”. COVID-19 is not other people’s problem. We all must have a strong determination “not to get infected” to protect our own lives and “not to infect others” to protect the lives of our family, friends, and colleagues.
Including those who are vaccinated, it is still vital to take basic measures. So, please continue to wear a mask, sanitize your hands, avoid crowds, and ventilate spaces. Regarding the masks, nonwoven cloth masks are said to be highly effective. If you are using cloth masks or urethane masks, please consider using nonwoven masks in crowded situations.
Despite it is summer vacation, I feel sorry that our students are forced to spend constrained days in cooperation with the behavioral restrictions. However, I hope you make this time meaningful for you by taking up things you normally do not have time to do, such as reading books. The second semester will start soon. Please check the notification that will be issued later regarding how the classes will be conducted. I am sending this message from my heart and I hope you feel it. I sincerely hope that all of you start the second semester in good health and we get the safe and comfortable campus back. Thank you for your continued cooperation.