• Kyodo, Jiji

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A pregnant woman in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, who had tested positive for the coronavirus lost her baby after she was forced to give birth prematurely at home because she was unable to find a hospital that would admit her, local authorities said Thursday.

Tuesday's incident involving the woman in her 30s, who was 29 weeks pregnant and had moderate symptoms of COVID-19, has further shed light on how hospitals are under strain due to the explosive spread of the coronavirus in Japan, as repeated attempts by authorities to hospitalize her were unsuccessful.

A limited number of medical institutions can take in a pregnant woman with COVID-19 due to complications arising from measures to prevent the virus from spreading within the hospital.

According to Kashiwa officials, the woman had complained that her abdomen felt tighter than the previous day when the city's public health center called to check up on her Tuesday morning.

The officials said the center tried to arrange for her to be hospitalized but was unsuccessful. At around 4:20 p.m., the woman contacted the center complaining of what she felt were labor pains.

The center once again attempted to find a hospital that could take her, but none was available, the officials said.

The woman gave birth to a boy at around 5:15 p.m., but it took more than 45 minutes for emergency services to transport her and the baby to a hospital, where the newborn was pronounced dead.

An official of a public health center in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, speaks to reporters at the Kashiwa Municipal Government building on Thursday. | KYODO
An official of a public health center in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, speaks to reporters at the Kashiwa Municipal Government building on Thursday. | KYODO

"There are many cases where it is difficult finding a hospital — not only for pregnant women but also for other people, due to the medical system being under strain," an official at the city's public health center said.

Chiba Gov. Toshihito Kumagai said at a news conference Thursday that he takes the situation "very seriously," adding, "we will consider what kind of support we can provide in cooperation with maternity hospitals and others."

Following the incident, Chiba University Hospital in the city of Chiba decided to make some of the beds at its perinatal medical center available specifically to pregnant women infected with the coronavirus.

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