Prefectures ordered to review medical systems

Japan's health ministry has instructed local governments to review their medical systems ahead of a possible resurgence of the coronavirus.

The ministry on Friday asked prefectural governments to conduct the reviews by the end of November. Local authorities are being told to assume a spread of infections as severe as the peak of the fifth wave.

Confirmed cases during the fifth wave exceeded three times the anticipated number. This was mainly due to the Delta variant.

Hospital beds fell into short supply, at one time forcing more than 130,000 people to isolate at home.

In the latest notification, the ministry urged prefectures to ensure adequate beds and to ask hospitals to clarify the conditions under which patients may be rejected. Some hospitals have been slow to admit patients even when beds are available.

Officials asked prefectures to set up temporary treatment centers, including those for patients waiting to be hospitalized. They also requested part-time nurses to be recruited and dispatched to medical institutions.

Regarding people who are self-isolating, the ministry asked prefectures to ensure close monitoring and to respond faster to any sudden changes in condition. They also called for systems to be set up to administer virus-neutralizing antibody drugs at patients' homes.