Urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka are among the nation’s 47 prefectures where the rate of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients stands at less than 20 percent, a Kyodo News survey has shown.
The finding comes amid growing concerns over further strains on Japan’s health care system due to the rising number of infections in the capital and elsewhere. All prefectures are now covered by the state of emergency, which was declared by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday to curb the spread of the virus heading into the Golden Week holidays through May 6.
The survey, which was based on interviews with local governments on Friday, found that in addition to Tokyo and Osaka, hospital bed vacancy in six other prefectures remains lower than 20 percent. The six are Shiga, Okinawa, Hyogo, Ishikawa, Kagawa and Fukuoka prefectures.
The local governments were asked about the number of hospital beds and inpatients, and calculated the occupancy rate of the beds.
Based on the calculation, all hospital beds in Tokyo, Osaka and Hyogo would have already been filled as the figures for inpatients also include those at home who have not yet been hospitalized.
The total number of coronavirus cases in Japan has now surpassed 10,000, with Tokyo confirming on Saturday 181 new infection cases. Tokyo has been reporting more than 100 infections on most days since April 4, while all other prefectures, with the exception of Iwate, have confirmed cases.
Tokyo, as well as Osaka, Hyogo, Fukuoka, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures, were part of the initial state of emergency declared by the government earlier this month in the wake of an alarming growth in cases in urban areas.
For Saitama, Kochi and Kyoto prefectures, the rate of hospital bed vacancy is below 30 percent. Saitama, however, has about 200 people under quarantine at home, which was not taken into account.
In multiple answers to the question of whether they have designated or are considering securing hospital beds, at least 34 local governments said they have transferred patients with mild symptoms to hotels or facilities that can accept them, with 13 saying they have given financial support to medical institutions that have accepted such patients.
Twenty-one local governments said they were able to secure facilities for about 7,600 such patients.