Expert warns of explosive rise in cases in Tokyo

NHK -- Jan 15
An expert warns that Tokyo has been experiencing an unprecedentedly rapid increase in new cases of the coronavirus and explosive growth could occur.

A panel of experts and Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials met on Thursday for a weekly assessment of the coronavirus situation in the capital.

The panel decided to maintain both the infection situation for Tokyo and its medical system at the highest alert level of 4.

The expert pointed out that the seven-day average of new cases in Tokyo has risen to 1,699 from the previous average of 1,029. That's an increase of 65 percent.

He said Tokyo has never had a weekly increase of 65 percent before. He expressed a strong sense of crisis, saying that this rate of increase raises the possibility of explosive growth occurring.

The expert warned that at the current rate, the daily number of new cases would increase by a factor of 1.7 in a week, and that in two weeks, the number of new hospitalizations is projected to exceed 4,000 -- the total number of hospital beds set aside for COVID-19 patients.

The expert said the situation in Tokyo has become so serious that the number of new cases is starting to exceed capacity at hospitals as well as designated hotels for people who have mild or no symptoms. He said the situation is very serious, with the medical system for non-coronavirus patients also being overwhelmed. He stressed that the number of new cases of the coronavirus must be thoroughly curbed.

Another expert said that to prevent the healthcare system in Tokyo from collapsing, it is vitally important to reduce the number of new infections, and in particular, the number of serious cases.

He said the spike in new infections in Tokyo is overwhelming the ability of public health centers to find hospitals that can accept COVID-19 patients.

He explained that since January 6, public health centers have referred more than 400 new patients a day to the Metropolitan Government for help in finding hospitals for them. The expert said that in many of these cases, patients were not able to be hospitalized until at least the following day.