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The occupancy of hospital beds for coronavirus patients rose last week in 40 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, with some medical care systems now on the verge of collapse, Jiji reports, citing health ministry data.

“Front-line medical workers are placed under increasing pressure,” an expert said as Tokyo and other areas continued to see high numbers of COVID-19 cases. “The situation is extremely severe.”

Still, with a relatively high number of doctors and nurses compared with other Asia-Pacific countries, Japan has a greater capacity to respond to the pandemic, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said Friday. There are about 12 nurses and 2.5 doctors for every 1,000 people in Japan, according to the OECD, reports Osamu Tsukimori.

A doctor wears a protective gown at a newly built hospital for infectious diseases in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, in October. An OECD report says Japan has a greater capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic relative to other Asia-Pacific countries, as it has more doctors and nurses and better infrastructure.  | KYODO
A doctor wears a protective gown at a newly built hospital for infectious diseases in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, in October. An OECD report says Japan has a greater capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic relative to other Asia-Pacific countries, as it has more doctors and nurses and better infrastructure. | KYODO

In a bid to get a better handle on the situation amid the surge in cases, the government is aiming to test around 15,000 people for COVID-19 antibodies by the end of the year, Kyodo reports. The testing, the second of its kind since June, will take place in Tokyo, Osaka and three other prefectures.

And speaking of testing, precision equipment maker Shimadzu Corp. said Friday it has started selling a less-pricey, automated COVID-19 test device that it hopes will be more affordable for small hospitals and quarantine offices.

Meanwhile, a French-Japanese research team has said it will develop by March a prototype paper sensor for detecting the new coronavirus that aims to ultimately let people to find out whether they have contracted COVID-19 merely by taking photographs of the paper sensors with their smartphones after placing their saliva on them.

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