Photo/Illutration Doctors and nurses treat a COVID-19 patient with severe symptoms at a Saitama hospital. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Improved treatment was among factors that played a key role in reducing the fatality rate of COVID-19 during the second wave to just one-sixth of the levels recorded in the first wave this spring.

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases reported Sept. 4 a sharp decrease in the fatality rate across all age groups.

Even among those aged 70 and older, the fatality rate was only one-third the level in spring.

Among reasons given for the falling fatality rates were the establishment of treatment methods as well as the many cases of individuals with no or minor symptoms who were confirmed through expanded testing.

The institute conducted an analysis to calculate an estimated fatality rate based on reports submitted by prefectural governments.

The second wave is judged to have occurred between June and Aug. 19 when the fatality rate over all age groups was 0.9 percent.

In the first wave between Jan. 16, when the first confirmed COVID-19 infection was reported in Japan, and May, the fatality rate was 5.8 percent.

For those aged 70 and older, the fatality rate during the first wave was 24.5 percent, but in the second wave the figure dropped to 8.7 percent.

The fatality rate in the second wave among those under 50 stood at zero while the rate was 0.2 percent in the first wave.

Motoi Suzuki, who heads the Infectious Diseases Surveillance Center of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, noted that fatalities had fallen since July.

As reasons for the decrease in the fatality rate, Suzuki cited expanded testing for COVID-19, better treatment methods and the fact that many new cases in the second wave involved young people.

He also cited better methods to prevent infections from spreading within hospitals or care facilities for the elderly as well as a comparatively higher ratio of patients without pre-existing health conditions.