Olympic host Tokyo asks for more hospital beds as Covid-19 infections rise

Daily infections in the city doubled to 1,429 on Monday.
Daily infections in the city doubled to 1,429 on Monday.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Tokyo’s 2,848 daily coronavirus infections on Tuesday (July 27) were the Olympic host city’s highest since the pandemic began, officials said, as media reported that authorities had asked hospitals to prepare more beds for patients.

Japan has avoided the devastating outbreaks suffered by other nations such as India, Indonesia and the United States, but the fifth wave of the pandemic fuelled by the Delta variant is piling pressure on Tokyo’s hospitals.

By Sunday, 20.8 per cent of the Japanese capital’s 12,635 Covid-19 patients had been hospitalised. A government advisory panel sees rates of less than 25 per cent as a trigger to consider imposition of a state of emergency.

Tokyo has already declared a fourth state of emergency this month, to run until after the Olympics, and Japan made the unprecedented decision to hold the Games, postponed from last year by the pandemic, without spectators to stem its spread.

As hospitals admit more patients, Tokyo aims to boost the number of beds to 6,406 by early next month from 5,967 now, broadcaster TBS said.

Hospitals should look at pushing back planned surgery and scaling down other treatments, TBS said, citing a notice to medical institutions from the city authorities.

Health experts had warned that seasonal factors, increased mobility and the spread of variants would lead to a rebound in Covid-19 cases this summer.

Kyoto University professor Yuki Furuse earlier projected that new daily cases in Tokyo could rise to 2,000 in August, potentially maxing out hospital beds in Tokyo and the area.

While vaccinations are boosting protection for the oldest citizens most likely to need emergency care, just 36 per cent of the population has received at least one shot, a Reuters vaccination tracker shows.

The initially sluggish inoculation push finally gained steam last month, but has recently ebbed again among logistical snags.

Many Japanese had wanted the Games postponed again or cancelled, fearing the influx of athletes and officials could add to the surge.

The Games are being held under tight quarantine rules to prevent the spread of the virus, but 155 cases have emerged involving athletes and others.

A strict "playbook" setting out rules to avoid contagion mandates frequent testing for the virus, restricted movements and wearing masks by athletes and others in most situations.