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Health ministry data has shown the occupancy rate for hospital beds for seriously ill patients as of Wednesday last week rose in 17 of the country's 47 prefectures from a week before.

The rate was above 25% in Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa prefectures, at 37%, 28% and 26%, respectively, suggesting that the three prefectures had reached a Stage 3 situation, the second-worst level on the four-tier system to measure the seriousness of the virus's spread.

The figure was up 6 percentage points for Tokyo from a week before, up 2 points for Osaka and unchanged for Okinawa.

The rate stood at 18% in Kanagawa Prefecture, 21% in Aichi Prefecture, 22% in Kyoto Prefecture and 15% in Hyogo Prefecture.

Hokkaido, where the supply-demand balance for medical services is believed to be severe, had a rate of 11%, up 5 points.

The occupancy rate for beds for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms was below 10% in all nine prefectures in the Chugoku and Shikoku western regions — Okayama, Hiroshima, Tottori, Shimane, Yamaguchi, Kagawa, Ehime, Tokushima and Kochi — and all seven prefectures in the Kyushu region — Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Kagoshima.

On Monday, the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients across the country rose to a record high of 331, according to the ministry, surpassing the previous high of 328 marked on April 30 at the peak of the nation's first wave of infections, the health ministry said.

While the proportion of serious patients among the overall number of patients has been falling thanks to an accumulation of medical treatment know-how, the number of patients in severe condition increased by about 2.1-fold from a month before and by about 1.6-fold from two weeks before.

Concerns about bed shortages are increasing in Hokkaido and the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, the occupancy rate for all hospital beds for coronavirus patients, including those with mild symptoms, rose in 37 prefectures as of Wednesday from a week earlier, with nine of them seeing figures of over 25%.

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