• Kyodo

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The government said Friday it will boost the country’s medical capabilities in order to hospitalize 20% more COVID-19 patients compared with this summer’s fifth wave of infections, when many people were forced to recuperate at home.

In an outline of countermeasures presented at a panel meeting, the government of new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said it will seek to increase the utilization rate of hospital beds secured for COVID-19 patients, in addition to designating more beds at public hospitals for exclusive use by sufferers of the respiratory disease.

“We will prepare for the next surge in infections by considering the worst-case scenario,” Kishida said at the meeting. The government plans to present a more detailed response to the pandemic in November, he added.

Kishida also said he may ask people to follow tight restrictions on their activities if the country sees a large spike in coronavirus infections.

Japan saw a surge in infections this summer when it held the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, logging a nationwide daily record of 25,867 on Aug. 20. Since then, the country has seen a steady decline in cases, but there are concerns over another surge.

In the outline, the government said it will prepare the medical infrastructure so it can endure another wave of infections worse than the fifth wave.

It said that it plans to have about 80% of hospital beds allocated for COVID-19 utilized, and require public hospitals to secure more beds under the law.

However, strengthening the health care system poses a challenge, as it will require securing more medical workers and balancing the treatment for COVID-19 patients with those suffering from other diseases.

The government will therefore likely be required to provide sufficient support to medical facilities.

In an effort to ensure transparency, the government is also considering releasing information about the country’s medical infrastructure, including the occupancy rate of hospital beds and the status of online examinations of COVID-19 patients recuperating at home.

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