Nihon Kohden Corp. has said it will ramp up ventilator production by working with Toyota Motor Corp. in order to prepare for the possible wider spread of COVID-19 in Japan, which has so far appeared to avoid the spikes in cases seen in the U.S. and Europe.
The medical-equipment maker plans to deliver 1,000 ventilators in the next six months by boosting output fivefold, a spokeswoman said Thursday. Nihon Kohden makes mask-type ventilators domestically, while those to intubate patients are produced in California.
Manufacturers including General Motors Co. and General Electric Co. are using their production capabilities to boost the supply of ventilators, considered critical equipment for severely ill COVID-19 patients.
Japan has been increasing its availability of hospital beds, but medical experts have warned that there may not be enough ventilators if there is a sudden increase in infections.
The nation currently has more than 8,000 cases, compared with almost 640,000 in the U.S. and 2 million infections worldwide.
Nissan Motor Co. is also considering a partnership with a medical company recommended by the government, the economy ministry said Thursday.
The Nikkei newspaper reported Wednesday that Toyota and Honda Motor Co. were lined up to help Nihon Kohden to make more ventilators. Toyota has confirmed that it is working with Nihon Kohden, while Honda said it’s considering how it can support measures against the outbreak.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting Thursday with corporate executives from firms including Nissan, ANA Holdings Inc. and Unicharm Corp. to discuss ways to boost the production of masks, face shields, protective gowns and sanitizers.
Japan will expand its state of emergency to include the entire country from the current seven prefectures, Abe said earlier, addding that the period would continue to run until May 6. The prime minister also ordered changes to a planned extra budget to take into account calls for cash handouts of ¥100,000 ($930) per citizen.