Japan braces for possible next wave

NHK -- Dec 08
As the Omicron variant takes hold around the world, Japan is shoring up its medical system to counter a possible next wave.

The Health Ministry says hospitals have the capacity to admit 37,000 COVID patients nationwide. That's about 10,000 more than before.

Many COVID patients weren't hospitalized during the wave of infections last summer because of a severe shortage of beds. What's more, only about 68 percent of hospital beds for COVID patients were actually occupied due to a lack of frontline workers.

The Ministry is working to get that up to 82 percent.

It plans to have medical workers at the ready who can be dispatched to hospitals experiencing staff shortages.

Kawakita General Hospital in Tokyo has managed to increase the number of beds for coronavirus patients. But there's a downside. Okai Takahiro, Deputy Director of the hospital says, "Because we're securing beds for coronavirus patients, it'll impact our ability to provide care to other patients."

Authorities are also stepping up vaccination efforts.

Japan's health minister said he hopes to make booster shots available sooner. The current interval is eight months in general. The government has so far only approved the Pfizer vaccine for booster shots. The Health Ministry is planning to decide as early as December 15th whether to approve the Moderna vaccine as well.

On Tuesday, health authorities across Japan confirmed 115 new coronavirus cases and 2 deaths.

Tokyo reported 19 new infections.