• SHARE

Facing a growing shortage of nursing staff amid a new wave of coronavirus infections, Osaka Prefecture is preparing to request that the Self-Defense Forces dispatch nurses to a new facility for seriously ill patients that is set to open on Dec. 15, Eric Johnston reports.

The move comes as Osaka raised its virus alert level to red last week after available hospital beds for COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms began filling up quickly in the prefecture, with occupancy topping 60% and raising fears that doctors won’t be able to treat coronavirus patients as well as those with other diseases if the figure continues to rise.

The Tower of the Sun in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, is lit up in red Thursday night after the prefectural government asked residents to avoid going out for nonessential reasons amid the spread of COVID-19 infections. | KYODO
The Tower of the Sun in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, is lit up in red Thursday night after the prefectural government asked residents to avoid going out for nonessential reasons amid the spread of COVID-19 infections. | KYODO

Looking farther ahead, Japan is considering the resumption of inbound tourism on a limited basis from the spring as Tokyo prepares to host the delayed Summer Olympics, Reuters reports citing local media.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration is reportedly leaning toward allowing small tour groups from Asian countries where coronavirus infections are well under control, such as China and Taiwan. Tourists would have to test negative for the coronavirus and submit a detailed travel itinerary before entering, the report said. They would also travel only by hired vehicles and would be separated from other customers at their hotels and sightseeing destinations.

The report’s timing was questionable, coming as Tokyo battles a surge in coronavirus cases. On Saturday it confirmed a single-day record 584 new infections and recorded 327 the following day.

Still, workers at some tourist spots in Tokyo have voiced concerns about the negative impact on their businesses of the government’s earlier request for elderly people and those with health issues not to use Japan’s Go To Travel domestic travel subsidy campaign amid the uptick.

“Tourists had been returning somewhat, but my store cannot avoid the impact of the latest request” from the Tokyo metropolitan and central governments over the use of the tourism promotion program, said one souvenir shop operator.

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)