Tokyo COVID: Cases surge as Delta variant takes hold, hospital policy U-turn expected

pharmafile | August 4, 2021 | News story | Medical Communications, Research and Development  

Japan has warned that COVID-19 cases are surging at an ‘unprecedented pace’, hitting record highs in Tokyo amid the Olympic games.

Health Minister, Norihisa Tamura, pointed to the Delta variant as the cause of the increased infections, and set out to defend the controversial policy that has seen the Japanese government ask patients with milder symptoms to isolate at home rather than going to hospital.

He told parliament: “The pandemic has entered a new phase … Unless we have enough beds, we can’t bring people to hospital. We’re acting pre-emptively on this front.”

However, it has been signalled that the policy may take a U-turn as it has faced much scrutiny from healthcare professionals who believe it will put lives at risk.

Japan has seen a sharp increase in coronavirus cases and Tokyo reported a record 4,166 new cases on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday that only COVID-19 patients who were seriously ill and those at risk of becoming so would be hospitalised, but officials of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have agreed to seek a withdraw of the policy, the Jiji news agency reported on Wednesday, joining similar calls made by opposition lawmakers.

The controversial policy has been seen as another blow to Suga, who has seen support plunge over his handling of the pandemic ahead of general elections to be held this year.

Polls have shown that many Japanese people are opposed to holding the Olympic Games, while the country lagged in efforts to contain the pandemic and vaccinate the population.

However, Suga and the Olympic organisers have said that there is no link between the games and the recent surge in COVID cases.

Top medical adviser Shigeru Omi said: “Political leaders are sending out messages to the public in earnest but probably not as strongly and consistently as hoped.

“We’re seeing COVID-19 clusters emerge more broadly including at schools and offices.”

Kat Jenkins

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