TOKYO Kyodo Japan's health minister said Tuesday that the country has boosted its medical capacity so that it can admit 37,000 patients at hospitals, up 30 percent from this summer, in preparation for a possible resurgence of the coronaviruses.
Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto told a press conference that the government has met its goal for more hospital beds, officially decided in November, after many people were forced to recuperate at home during this summer's fifth wave of infections.
The government will review its policy when it comes to concerns over the Omicron variant, he said. Goto said that we will be flexible in coming up with a way of providing medical care.
Japan hosted the Tokyo Olympics and Olympics this summer and saw a surge in infections. There were cases where people died at home without being hospitalized because of the strain on the medical system.
The country has seen a decline in cases but concerns remain over a possible sixth wave of infections, especially after the highly contagious Omicron variant was detected in Japan.
Three cases of the highly mutated strain have been confirmed by Japan, despite the fact that daily infections have remained at under 200 for about three weeks.
In his policy speech on Monday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to prepare for the worst in dealing with the Omicron variant, and said that the government will maintain its stance of being cautious and prudent in the fight against the virus.
Almost 77 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated against the virus. Kishida said his government will shorten its previous timeline for the interval between receiving a second vaccine shot and being eligible for a booster.
Japan administered COVID- 19 booster shots to individuals who received their second shot at least eight months ago.
Health care professionals across the country are first in line for third doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, with the elderly expected to follow in the near future to prevent the spread of infections and severe symptoms.
The government is working with local governments to shorten the interval before the booster to at least six months based on capacity, with the government approving Moderna Inc. s COVID 19 vaccine for use as a booster and Pfizer vaccine, which has already been approved for booster use, according to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara.
Kihara said that if approved, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, like the Pfizer vaccine, could also be used as a booster for those who didn't receive it for their first two shots.