Japan starts to downgrade coronavirus categorization on Monday

Japan starts to downgrade the legal status of the coronavirus to the same group as seasonal influenza beginning on Monday.

The new status means the government no longer legally restricts the public's movement to prevent infection, and people will be allowed to make some decisions for themselves.

Under the new category, Covid-19 vaccinations continue to be free through this fiscal year as the number of infections could continue to increase. The health ministry is also recommending that people stay home for five days after being infected with the virus.

A university hospital in Tokyo which accepts coronavirus patients in very serious condition has decided to change its plan of reducing the number of its dedicated beds in phases, because the number of new cases has continued to increase from April. Instead, it will monitor the situation for the time being.

The Nippon Medical School Hospital once secured up to 19 dedicated beds for seriously ill coronavirus patients at its critical care center, and has admitted about 360 such patients since April 2020.

The hospital kept six dedicated beds even after the number of cases declined, and planned to reduce the number in phases to admit other emergency patients. But the hospital said it will make decisions on the timing and number of beds after monitoring the situation.

Yokobori Shoji, who heads the critical care center at the university hospital, said he is worried that the number of patients may soar or that the virus might mutate and raise the risk of developing severe symptoms. He also said he fears the disease may spread in senior homes, and that patients will stop seeing doctors if the cost of Covid-19 treatment is no longer fully covered by the government.

He said his hospital will be better prepared to deal with such situations by phasing out coronavirus treatment measures rather than ending them all at once.