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Older people who need nursing care stopped applying for certification in March because they think care workers are spreading the coronavirus, a recent survey suggests.

Many apparently opted not to file applications to avoid close contact with care workers, the results suggest.

Nursing care experts warn that older people in need of such services could thus suffer from increased muscle weakness and declines in cognitive ability by foregoing treatment.

The survey by Jiji Press covered 52 cities and wards, focusing on new applications for care certification submitted from January to May and the year-on-year changes.

According to the data, the number of applications in January, when the virus first emerged in Japan, grew or fell only slightly in most municipalities and the nationwide total stayed almost flat.

But that later started declining in proportion to the degree of the virus’s spread.

By May, all surveyed municipalities had logged drops, with applications down more than 20 percent in 31 cities and over 30 percent in four, including Fukui and Aomori.

From April to May, when the state of emergency was in place, care applications fell 23 percent on average.

Some cities, including Sapporo, said people refrained from applying for day care services to prevent themselves from becoming infected, the survey said.

Some cities said people did not submit applications because they did not want personnel to visit their homes to do the research needed to determine care-need certification. In addition, others did not allow such visits even after submitting applications.

“We are unable to assess needs for care services unless applications are submitted,” an official of a city in the Kanto region said, adding that there must be older people who saw their health deteriorate because they didn’t receive care services.

“We may discover more and more people with weakened physical strength resulting from the closures of care facilities and voluntary restraint in the use of such places once interactions in society restart” following the lifting of the state of emergency, an official of a city in the Chubu region warned.

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