While Japan has entered the year-end and New Year's holiday period, medical workers continue to devote all their energies to coping with persistent coronavirus surges.
Medical workers are giving up their holidays over concerns the country's medical system has reached the verge of collapse.
"I'm weary and worn out, but we have to get through this," said a public health center worker, who is missing a chance to enjoy some relaxing family time.
A public health center in Tokyo's Katsushika Ward will continue operations even during the holiday period, securing about a dozen workers, including support staff.
Each worker must call about 100 people infected with the coronavirus and people who had close contact with those infected to check their health condition and movements.
"Nothing has changed at the end of the year. Workers are reaching their physical limits," an official at the Katsushika center said.
A 50-year-old public health center worker in Tokyo pays a New Year's visit to a Shinto shrine every year with her parents, but she decided to cancel the visit this time.
She is slated to work on three days during the holiday period, but she will have to give up her holidays if an infection cluster is confirmed.
"I know another worker with a small child who works on holidays without complaining. We need to deal with this with help from others," she said.
Uchida Internal Medicine Clinic in Tachikawa, Tokyo, will accept outpatients with fevers on New Year's Eve and on New Year's day.
If a patient is suspected of having been infected with the coronavirus, a polymerase chain reaction test will be conducted on the spot.
"At the end of year, emergency hospitals are busy and a lot of clinics are closed. People would flock toward large hospitals, obviously causing a medical collapse," said Hironobu Kamagata, the 39-year-old head of the clinic.
"We'll do what we can to prevent patients from being left high and dry," Kamagata said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.