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The number of older people who used temporary overnight nursing services at care facilities plunged 20.0% from a year earlier in May, when a state of emergency was declared over the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Friday.

Despite high demand for nursing services in the country with its rapidly graying population, the number of care facility users sharply fell as older people refrained from visiting for fear of being infected and providers limited their services to prevent the spread of the virus, welfare ministry officials said.

Temporary overnight stays at nursing care facilities are meant for those who usually receive care from their family members at home but need services when their caregivers are not available.

Nursing care benefits paid for care service providers were also down in April and May, according to a report by the welfare ministry, compiled for the first time to gauge the impact of the pandemic on the management of such service providers.

Among them, rewards for day care rehabilitation service facilities tumbled 15.4% from a year earlier in May, according to the survey.

Under the state care insurance system, nursing care users pay between 10% and 30% of the total service costs depending on their income, with the remaining costs covered by public expenses and insurance premiums paid by those age 40 or older in Japan.

Even after the state of emergency was fully lifted in late May, the number of older people temporarily using nursing care facilities, including day care service providers, continued to decrease, according to the report, which covered the period of February through August.

The number of those using temporary overnight services at care facilities fell 15.6% in April from the previous year, the data showed. This was later followed by falls of 14.4% in June, 11.1% in July and 11.2% in August.

For day care nursing service facilities, revenue declined 4.6% from the previous year in April and 7.7% in May.

In a separate survey by the ministry covering around 40,000 nursing care service providers, 47.5% of them said their business conditions had deteriorated due to the pandemic as of May.

In October, 32.7% answered the same way, indicating that the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to weigh on them.

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