Coronavirus third wave puts many Japanese hospitals on overload

Japan Today -- Jan 11
Medical facilities across Japan are struggling to cope with the recent surge in novel coronavirus infections, leaving the medical care system in many areas on the brink of collapse.

With the third wave of COVID-19 cases showing no sign of abating, some hospitals have already been forced to turn patients away or postpone stays, while others are hoping the state of emergency declared Thursday for Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures will reduce numbers in time for them to avoid similar measures.

The monthlong emergency was declared by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga the same day the capital logged a record 2,447 daily cases. Many other parts of Japan are also continuing to report record infections.

A key feature of the emergency measures is a request for restaurants to further shorten operating hours, but Shigeru Omi, head of a government subcommittee on the pandemic, said earlier this week that this would not be enough to "control the current surge."

It would be "no easy feat" to suppress the rise in infections in less than one month, he told a news conference.

Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, says the government should look into the possibility of expanding the declaration nationwide depending on how the spread of the virus develops.

Nakagawa also said lawmakers should send a clear message to the public to avoid group dining to lower infection risks, in the wake of Suga himself drawing criticism for ignoring such strictures. Last month he attended a group dinner with people including celebrities and a baseball Hall of Famer, despite asking the public to avoid such events.

As daily infections continue to rise, the number of people in Tokyo unable to secure hospital treatment has been rapidly increasing, topping 3,000 as of the beginning of January. A health ministry official says the situation is becoming "dire."

Meanwhile, 77 percent of the 4,000 available hospital beds for coronavirus cases in the capital had been filled as of Jan 6, while the rate in neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture was 84 percent. In Chiba Prefecture's western region bordering Tokyo it was around 70 percent, and 65 percent in Saitama to the north of the capital.

- Japan Today