Photo/Illutration An electron microscope image of the novel coronavirus (Provided by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Japan is a long way from achieving herd immunity against the novel coronavirus, according to the health ministry.

The results of antibody testing for COVID-19 as of December showed all areas covered by the study with ratios under 1 percent.

Achieving herd immunity against an illness requires that between 60 to 70 percent of the population develop some form of immunity, either through contracting the disease or being vaccinated.

But the results released Feb. 5 by the health ministry for a second antibody study showed the ratios to be 0.91 percent in Tokyo, 0.58 percent in Osaka, 0.54 percent in Aichi, 0.19 percent in Fukuoka and 0.14 percent in Miyagi.

With such low figures, the ministry called on the public to continue to observe infection-prevention measures.

The study involved testing 15,043 residents aged 20 or older in the five prefectures for COVID-19 antibodies.

There was a slight uptick in the antibody ratios in comparison to the first study conducted last June. At that time, the ratios were 0.1 percent in Tokyo, 0.17 percent in Osaka and 0.03 percent in Miyagi.

There are many unknowns about the novel coronavirus, including how long the antibody remains in the body of an infected person.

“The latest results show that the ratio of people with immunity is still very low,” noted Junichiro Nishi, a professor of infectious diseases at Kagoshima University on the main southern island of Kyushu. “If herd immunity is to be achieved, large numbers of people will need to be vaccinated.”

(This article was written by Kohei Tomida and Kenta Noguchi.)