Tokyo says COVID-19 strain on hospitals is severe, raises alert to highest

People wearing protective masks make their way amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, December 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese capital of Tokyo said on Thursday the strain on its medical system from the COVID-19 pandemic was severe, raising its alert level to the highest of four stages as the number of cases spiked to a record daily high of 822.

A health official said it had become difficult to balance the care of COVID-19 patients with regular ones as hospital beds filled up, assigning a “red” alert for medical preparedness for the first time.

“Medical service providers have exhausted all spare resources,” Masataka Inokuchi, vice chair of the Tokyo Medical Association, told a coronavirus monitoring committee meeting attended by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. “Reducing the number of (COVID-19) patients will be the only way to go.”

The metropolitan government said the number of coronavirus cases hit 822 on Thursday, surpassing the previous record of 678 reached a day earlier.

A month ago, the city raised its coronavirus alert for new infections – a separate category – to the highest level. It had kept its alert for medical preparedness at the second-highest level at the time, indicating a need to boost hospital capacity but a notch below critical conditions.

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