Japan experts: Hospitals can't cope if coronavirus cases rise further
He says the government failed to adapt and its early strategy no longer works
TOKYO: Japanese medical experts are warning more must be done to prevent the coronavirus from overwhelming the country's healthcare system as confirmed cases passed 10,000, despite a nationwide state of emergency.
Experts have been alarmed by a recent spike in Covid-19 infections, with hundreds detected daily.
Japan's outbreak remains less severe than in hard-hit European countries, but its caseload is one of Asia's highest after China and India, and is roughly on a par with South Korea.
There have been 171 deaths recorded so far in Japan and 10,751 cases, with the country under a month-long state of emergency, initially covering seven regions but now in place nationwide.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged residents to reduce contact with other people by 70 per cent to 80 per cent, and the number of people on Tokyo's normally packed transport system has dropped significantly.
But the measures do not prevent people from going out, and many shops and even restaurants remain open, even as medical associations warn the healthcare system is struggling to cope.
"The system is on the verge of collapse in many places in Japan," said Professor Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease specialist from Kobe University who has repeatedly criticised the government's response to the crisis.
Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, Professor Iwata said Japan's strategy of limited testing and intensive contact tracing worked well in the initial phase of the local outbreak, when numbers were small.
But he charged that Japan failed to adapt as the outbreak grew.
"We needed to prepare for once the situation changes, once the cluster-chasing became not effective and we needed to change strategy immediately," he said.
"But traditionally speaking, and historically speaking, Japan is not very good at changing strategy," he added.
"We are very poor at even thinking of plan B because thinking of plan B is a sign of admitting failure of plan A."
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato has acknowledged that hospitals have in some cases turned away suspected coronavirus patients in ambulances.
In South-east Asia, Malaysia reported 36 new coronavirus cases yesterday, the lowest daily rise since the government imposed curbs on movement and business to contain the spread of the pandemic a month ago.
The new cases bring the cumulative total to 5,425 cases.
The Health Ministry reported no new deaths, keeping total fatalities at 89.
Indonesia reported 185 new cases yesterday, taking the total number of infections to 6,760, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.
There had been eight new deaths, taking the total number to 590.
The Philippines Health Ministry yesterday reported 19 deaths and 200 additional infections. In a bulletin, it said total infections have risen to 6,459 while deaths have increased to 428.
Thailand said it has 27 new cases, the majority in Bangkok, bringing the total to 2,792 cases. There were no deaths reported yesterday, making it the third straight day. - AFP, REUTERS