The health ministry is planning to narrow the scope of COVID-19 patients for whom hospitalization is recommended to only cover elderly people and those who suffer from chronic illnesses, in principle.

The plan was met with approval by a working group of an advisory body at the ministry on Friday.

The ministry hopes to reduce the burden on medical institutions and allow them to focus on the treatment of seriously ill patients.

The ministry now plans to revise related government ordinances.

After discussions on the matter, also including the Health Sciences Council working group on infectious diseases, the ministry aims to put the revised scope into effect by the end of October.

To prevent a shortage of hospital beds, the ministry has notified municipalities of a basic policy to have COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms stay at accommodation facilities.

As the related government ordinances stipulate that all COVID-19 patients can be recommended for hospitalization, some municipalities, by rigidly following the stipulation, are having symptom-free patients stay at hospitals, causing an increased burden on medical institutions.

The ministry’s proposal that was approved by the working group calls for only encouraging COVID-19 patients 65 or older and those with chronic diseases to be hospitalized as such people tend to see their symptoms increase in severity.

At the same time, the proposal seeks to allow municipalities to make rational and flexible judgments on whether to recommend hospitalization depending on the varying situation in each region.

In February, the government put into effect ordinances designating the coronavirus infection as a specified infectious disease under the infectious disease law, categorizing the illness on a par with Category II diseases, including tuberculosis, to make it possible for public authorities to advise patients to be hospitalized and to limit their work.

The ordinances were later revised to include those without symptoms, making COVID-19 almost equivalent to Category I infectious diseases, which includes Ebola. Category I is the most dangerous category in the five-notch scale under the law.

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