Ministry to urge prefs. to secure hospital beds

Japan's health ministry plans as early as this week to issue a directive urging prefectures to secure more hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and to take other measures.

The aim of the directive is to prepare for the next wave of coronavirus infections.

At one point during the current fifth wave, more than 130,000 people across the country were self-isolating at home to shake off the virus. Hospital beds have been in short supply in and around Tokyo, as well as in the southern prefecture of Okinawa.

Ministry officials think it will be difficult to sharply increase the number of hospital beds for coronavirus patients in the future.

That is because the number of beds was raised by more than 4,800 in the country after a request for them was made in March.

The officials say they will ask prefectures to set up temporary medical facilities for infected people who cannot check into hospitals. The officials also plan to call for people self-isolating at home to be monitored more closely, in order to respond to sudden changes in their conditions.

The officials will urge prefectures to solicit help from nurses who can only work on limited days or for limited hours, so that those nurses can be sent to medical institutions for certain periods.

During the current fifth wave, many hospitals have been unable to accept some people because they could not secure enough nurses.