Japan’s Covid-19 infections have entered ‘new phase,’ says health minister

Japan’s government was acting pre-emptively to ensure there are sufficient beds for seriously ill COVID-19 patients, its health minister said on Wednesday, warning infections have entered a “new phase” with a spike in Delta variant cases.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on Monday only Covid-19 patients who are seriously ill and those at risk of becoming so will be hospitalised, while others isolate at home, a shift in policy some fear may lead to an increase in deaths.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura defended the policy shift, saying that by asking people with less serious symptoms to isolate at home, Japan can ensure it does not run out of hospital beds for people in need of intensive care.

“The pandemic has entered a new phase … Unless we have enough beds, we can’t bring people into hospitals. We’re acting pre-emptively on this front,” Tamura told parliament.

“It’s important to act with speed,” he said, adding that the government was ready to roll back the new policy if it does not help address a crunch in hospitals.

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