Japan's emergency officials say the weekly number of cases in which ambulance crews struggled to find hospitals to accept patients has renewed a record high for the fourth straight week.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency records the number of what it calls "difficult transport cases" from emergency headquarters across Japan every week. They involve emergency responders having to ask four or more hospitals before a patient can be transported.
Agency officials said there were 8,161 such cases in the week through January 15, up 603 from the previous record set a week earlier.
The latest figure is about 5.3 times that of the same week three years ago, before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ambulances that went out to take suspected COVID patients accounted for 2,340 cases, or nearly 30 percent of those dispatched.
The officials said the number of "difficult transport cases" continues to be high, and that they are closely monitoring the situation.
Japan's medical system is facing one of the worst times in three-year-long pandemic, now in its eighth wave in the country. Earlier this month, Japan broke daily coronavirus death toll records several times nationwide.