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Japan still unprepared to weather “second wave” of COVID-19  

  • July 22, 2020
  • , Asahi, Yomiuri, Nikkei
  • JMH Summary

Nikkei ran a prominent inside-page article on the nation’s continued failure to establish sufficient public healthcare capabilities despite the resurgence of the novel coronavirus over the past several weeks. According to the paper, a total of 23 prefectures have not been able to secure enough hotel rooms to accommodate patients with minor symptoms. Okinawa currently has no such rooms available, while the number of such rooms in Tokyo, Akita, and two other prefectures is less than one-fourth of the level that the Health Ministry estimates will be necessary during the height of a “second wave.” As for ICU and other hospital beds for patients with serious symptoms, 26 prefectural governments may not be able to secure sufficient numbers of them.  


The business daily also reported that the nation’s daily PCR testing capacity, which currently stands at 58,000, including 26,000 PCR antigen tests, appears to be only 10% of the capacities of the U.S. and the UK. The paper speculated that even though the GOJ has vowed to boost the testing capacity, there do not appear to be any strong moves in the medical community toward resolving the shortage of testing equipment and lab technicians because GOJ regulations prohibit testing for those with no symptoms and those who have not been in close contact with infected persons. The daily also noted that the PCR capacities at Narita, Haneda, and other major airports are still too low to accommodate a large number of foreign travelers anytime soon.    


The paper also noted that the sharing of data on COVID-19 patients between the central government and prefectural governments has remained sluggish, as some local governments still rely on fax machines to process such information despite the GOJ’s commitment to handling such data online. In conclusion, Nikkei wrote that although huge costs may be incurred, it will be critical to administer more PCR tests to rein in the coronavirus outbreak.   


In a related development, Asahi and Yomiuri reported that Health Minister Kato told the press yesterday that the daily PCR testing capacity at airports will be increased from the present 2,300 to 10,000 by the end of September.   

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