This is our series on key coronavirus-related information. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.
New 5-point scale
The Japanese government has revised how it assesses the nation's coronavirus situation. A new five-point scale—with zero the least severe and 4 the most—focuses more on hospital capacity than new infections. The previous four-point scale was chiefly based on case numbers. In principle, a state of emergency was declared at the most severe level, while intensive anti-virus measures were implemented at one level below.
Vaccinations prompt shift
The changes follow a successful vaccine rollout, with more than 77 percent of those eligible now fully inoculated. The medical system is now better positioned to treat patients, and the development of drugs to treat the virus has also improved the situation. The proportion of patients with serious symptoms has decreased, and the occupancy rate of hospital beds assigned to such patients has dropped by more than half.
The details of the new scale are as follows. Levels are determined by prefectural governments.
There are no new cases.
Hospitals are able to stably respond to the situation. The resumption of socioeconomic activities can continue in phases, in tandem with the vaccine rollout, basic anti-infection measures and a strengthening of the medical system.
Extra vigilance is required. Cases are increasing and hospitals are coming under strain, but they can still cope by increasing the number of beds. Local governments are required to call on residents to avoid high-risk activities while supporting local healthcare centers and securing hospital beds. Intensive anti-virus measures may be enacted.
Hospitals are forced to significantly limit other forms of medical care to cope with the pandemic. In large cities, a state of emergency or intensive anti-virus measures may be enacted. Authorities must also secure more hospital beds and enforce restrictions on operating hours and capacity for locations including dining establishments and events. Level 3 is applied in prefectures where the current number of hospital beds for coronavirus patients is estimated to reach capacity three weeks later, or if the current occupancy rate overall, or for seriously ill patients, exceeds 50 percent.
Hospitals are unable to accept any more coronavirus patients despite drastically limiting other forms of care. The medical system operates as it would during a disaster, and arrangements are required for patients to be admitted to hospitals outside their prefecture.
This information is accurate as of December 13, 2021.