Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike raised the capital’s health care alert system to its highest level on Thursday, sounding the alarm just hours before the city reported a record-breaking 822 new cases of the novel coronavirus, reports Ryusei Takahashi.
The nationwide tally of new cases also hit a record, with media reports putting the figure at 3,211 as of late Thursday evening.
This is the first time Tokyo has reached the fourth level of its alert system, indicating that officials and experts on the metropolitan government’s task force believe hospitals are being overwhelmed and could soon struggle to provide treatment to patients other than those infected with COVID-19.
In a positive development on the medical front, Pfizer was reportedly set to formally request Japan approve its COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Kyodo reports. The Japanese government has already agreed with Pfizer to receive a supply of 120 million vaccine doses, enough to cover roughly half its population, although vaccinations may not begin until March.
In more-frustrating news, health authorities have reportedly been unable to reach a conclusion on whether the antiviral drug Avigan is effective in treating COVID-19 patients based on the results of tests by its developer. The Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency raised questions about the way tests were performed and the criteria for determining whether symptoms had improved, sources say.