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Tokyo negotiating with hotels to accommodate coronavirus patients with mild symptoms

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government building is seen in March 2019. (Mainichi/Masaaki Shimano)

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has started negotiating with hotels that could accept coronavirus patients with mild or no symptoms of the disease as infections surge in the capital with only a limited number of available beds at hospitals.

The metropolitan government said that of the 97 new infections confirmed in Tokyo on April 2 -- the highest figure for the capital for a single day -- the infection routes were unknown in 33 cases. The new cases brought the number of known infections in Tokyo to 684.

As of April 2, Tokyo had secured 700 hospital beds, including 140 at institutions designated to treat infectious diseases. But over 600 people have already been hospitalized, putting pressure on officials to secure more. The metropolitan government hopes to secure up to 4,000 hospital beds for coronavirus patients, and is advancing with preparations to achieve that target.

Based on the infectious diseases control law, all coronavirus patients are currently being hospitalized, regardless of whether their symptoms are heavy or only mild, or even absent. However, some 80% of patients have either no symptoms of COVID-19, as the disease is formally known, or only mild symptoms. In a bid to free up hospital beds for patients with severe symptoms, the metropolitan government is coordinating moves to rent out whole hotels to accept people who test positive for the virus but have only light or no symptoms.

The central government is considering having patients with only mild symptoms of COVID-19 rest at home or at hotels in areas where a lack of hotel beds is feared, including Tokyo. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to inform local bodies of concrete measures as early as April 3.

(Japanese original by Toshiki Koseki, Utsunomiya Bureau, Koichi Uchida, City News Department, and Hitomi Saikawa, Nagoya News Center)

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