National

Japan’s dwindling hospital beds highlight need to curb COVID-19 cases

Nationwide number of beds is less than half of the 31,077 necessary for infection peak

Reuters, Jiji, Kyodo

More than 90 percent of hospital beds secured for COVID-19 patients in Tokyo have already been occupied, the health ministry has said, underscoring the pressing need to curb the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

The ministry said Sunday that 1,832 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in the capital as of April 28, or 91.6 percent of the 2,000 beds made available for such patients.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government aims to boost the number of beds for COVID-19 patients to 4,000.

“There is a possibility that the virus will spread further. It is necessary to quickly increase the number of beds from 2,000 to reach the target,” a health ministry official said.

About 5,000 people in Tokyo were confirmed to have been infected with the virus, representing nearly one-third of Japan’s total infections of around 16,000, according to NHK.

Nationwide, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients came to 5,558 as of April 28, versus 14,486 beds set aside across the country for such patients, bringing down the occupancy rate to 38 percent, data from the ministry showed.

The number of beds is less than half of the 31,077 that are estimated to become necessary when infections peak in the country, according the ministry.

The figure, based on reports as of May 1, is far fewer than the target of 50,000 beds announced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in April.

Twelve prefectures have secured the number of beds seen necessary at the time of the estimated peak of the pandemic. They are Akita, Yamagata, Ishikawa, Nagano, Shizuoka, Mie, Hyogo, Tottori, Shimane, Yamaguchi, Kumamoto and Kagoshima.

However, much like Tokyo, other prefectures face shortages. The situation is believed to be becoming tough even in Ishikawa, which says it has secured enough beds. In the prefecture, 150 patients had been hospitalized as of April 28, against 170 beds prepared by the prefectural government.

The ministry also said the number of rooms at accommodation facilities that accept people who are infected with the virus but show mild or no symptoms stood at 16,113 nationwide as of Thursday, up by some 4,000 from April 27.

By prefecture, the number was largest in Tokyo at 2,865, followed by Kanagawa at 2,303 and Osaka at 1,565, according to the ministry.

In late April, the ministry shifted its policy of having asymptomatic patients or those with mild symptoms recuperate on their own, following the cases of two men in Saitama Prefecture who were self-isolating at home but died when their conditions suddenly took a turn for the worst.

Based on a nationwide survey on the state of facilities housing COVID-19 patients, the ministry found that of the total of 8,711 patients, 1,984 are in their homes, compared with 862 in hotels and other accommodations.

Those who tested positive and are hospitalized account for the largest number at 5,558, while 147 patients are at social welfare facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities. The rest are in unconfirmed locations, according to the study released Wednesday. The figures as of April 28 were obtained from prefectural governments.

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