Japan to prepare for possible wave of infections

The Japanese government says it will strengthen the medical system to prepare for another possible wave of coronavirus infections this winter.

The government decided in a meeting on Friday on an overview of its plans for dealing with a sixth wave that could hit the country.

The plans say the medical system will be improved this month so that about 37,000 people can be admitted to hospitals for treatment. The figure is about 30 percent higher than this summer when cases had reached a peak.

The government plans to use IT technologies to disclose the number of beds secured for coronavirus patients by each medical institution, as well as the percentage of beds that are occupied, starting next month.
It also plans to start providing vaccine booster shots in December for people who received their second doses more than eight months ago. It aims to allow booster shots to be given at workplaces from March next year.

The government also plans to make available oral medicines for patients with mild symptoms this year. It will supply 1.6 million doses to hospitals as soon as the treatments are approved.

The plans say free PCR tests will be available by March next year for people who cannot receive vaccinations due to medical reasons. In the event of a surge in infections, prefectures will be able to offer free PCR tests for people without symptoms.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio says it is important to prepare for a worst-case scenario of a potential surge in coronavirus infections.

He says the government will work to prevent people from becoming seriously ill through virus detection and early treatment of the disease with vaccines, virus tests, and oral drugs.