The Saturday editions of all national papers spotlighted a meeting of public health professionals convened by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Friday at which the attendees expressed profound concern about the sudden spike in coronavirus infections and the severe strain being imposed on local healthcare capacities. The hospital admission rate for COVID-19 patients was about 9.5% as of Aug. 18, down almost 16 points from a month ago. As the positivity rate was 24%, the experts pointed to a likely shortage of PCR diagnostic tests and the high probability that many asymptomatic virus carriers are not being detected. According to Sunday’s Asahi, at least 18 patients who had been forced to recuperate at home due to the shortage of hospital beds have died in the Tokyo metropolitan area since early July, with nine of them being in their 50s or younger.
In a related article, Yomiuri wrote that public health centers managed by municipal governments have been overwhelmed by the relentless rise in infections in many parts of the country, including the Tokyo metropolitan area and Okinawa. Many of them have been forced to give up on conducting labor-intensive, time-consuming contact tracing except when dealing with major cluster infections. Experts are worried that many asymptomatic virus carriers will remain undetected as a result and inadvertently spread the disease.