The occupancy rate for hospital beds for COVID-19 patients topped 50% in eight of Japan's 47 prefectures as of Wednesday last week, the health ministry said Tuesday.
The rate shows the share of the maximum bed capacity each prefecture can secure that is in use. A figure of 50% or higher is recognized as representing Stage 4, the worst level on the nation's four-tier scale for gauging the degree of the spread of the coronavirus. Stage 4 indicates that infections are spreading explosively, and areas in the stage can be covered by a state of emergency.
Bed occupancy was over 50% in Tokyo and the prefectures of Gunma, Saitama, Aichi, Shiga, Osaka, Hyogo and Hiroshima.
Hyogo had the highest rate, at 67.3%, up 5.4 percentage points from a week before, followed by Osaka, at 64.4%, up 0.6 point, Aichi, at 63.5%, and Tokyo, at 61.4%. The rate came to 55.2% in Gunma, 55.9% in Saitama, 51.4% in Shiga and 55.2% in Hiroshima.
Besides those exceeding 50% use, 22 prefectures saw their rates exceed 20%, an indication that they are in a Stage 3 situation with a rapid increase of infections. The rate stood at 40.4% in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, and 28.4% in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo.
The government is expected to declare a coronavirus state of emergency again for Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa this week in response to a surge in new infections.
The ministry also said that 11 prefectures saw occupancy rates of over 20% for hospital beds for COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms. The rate stood above 50% in Tokyo, Osaka and Nara prefectures. Tokyo's rate rose 7.2 points to 75.8%.
On Tuesday, Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa said the prefectural government had asked local medical facilities that accept coronavirus patients to postpone by about one month hospitalizations of and surgeries for noncoronavirus patients in conditions that are not urgent.
He made the request as more and more beds for COVID-19 patients at medical institutions in the prefecture are being occupied.
"The measure is necessary for protecting the lives of residents and the regional medical system," Kuroiwa said, seeking people's understanding and cooperation with the request.
Fifty-nine medical facilities are subject to the request, which is expected to cover relatively minor treatments, such as plastic surgeries and operations to remove benign polyps.
Meanwhile, the governor called on people not to hesitate to visit medical institutions for the treatment of potentially life-threatening conditions and diseases, such as acute illnesses and cancer.
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