TOKYO (Kyodo) -- At least 15,058 people were on the waiting list for a hospital or a designated accommodation after testing positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this month in the 11 prefectures covered by a state of emergency, a Kyodo News survey found Sunday, as public health centers have been swamped with surging numbers of new cases.
The number as of last Tuesday marks a sharp increase from a month earlier, including in Tokyo where it almost quintupled. In Japan, local public health centers are in charge of arranging for hospitalization of people infected with the virus, or appointment with an accommodation facility for people with mild symptoms.
But as the number of newly infected people has been rising sharply since last November, the arrangement has been taking longer and a growing number of infected people have been forced to wait at home amid bed shortages, and some have died there.
The survey showed Tokyo had the most infected people waiting to be hospitalized or accommodated at other facilities among the 11 prefectures, jumping 4.8 times from 1,563 as of Dec. 19 to 7,539. Meanwhile, the western prefecture of Hyogo has seen its number increase 5.8 times to 727 people.
Every prefecture has seen a similar rise. Two of Tokyo's neighboring prefectures -- Saitama and Chiba -- had 1,169 and 2,328, respectively, while there were 1,410 in the western prefecture of Osaka.
Some local governments have determined the numbers of those who need to be hospitalized but are forced to stay at home because of a bed shortage, with 96 such cases in Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, and 20 such cases in the central prefecture of Aichi.
Chiba and Kanagawa said their scheduling struggle is due to "pressing hospital bed shortages," while Tochigi Prefecture explained that designated hotels cannot welcome patients round-the-clock since it takes time to disinfect each time patients leave and come. As a result some end up recuperating at home.
Amid a resurgence of virus infections, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a monthlong state of emergency on Jan. 7 for the capital and three neighboring prefectures, later expanding it to seven other prefectures out of a total of 47 prefectures.
Under the state of emergency, people have been urged to refrain from going outside unnecessarily and restaurants asked to shorten their opening hours.
Meanwhile, Tokyo logged 986 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, down from 1,070 the previous day and dropping below the 1,000 mark for the first time in 12 days, the metropolitan government said.
The latest figure brought the capital's cumulative cases to 93,890.