Kishida vows 35,000 more hospital beds for COVID-19 patients

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Hospital beds prepared for asymptomatic patients and people with mild symptoms in Osaka on Nov. 5

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government would secure by the end of this month 35,000 more hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, up 30% from the peak this summer, in preparation for a potential sixth wave of the pandemic.

“We’ll ensure a medical system that can respond to a possible variant twice as infectious [as the current one],” Kishida told reporters Wednesday night.

He also said the government planned to increase accommodations for patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms by more than 10,000 rooms, up 20% from the peak this summer.

Kishida said the government intended to start vaccinations for children under 12 once it had been approved.

On Wednesday, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry reached an agreement with the Japanese arm of U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. to purchase 1.6 million doses of its oral antiviral drug molnupiravir.

“We’ll provide 600,000 doses to medical institutions promptly, and secure an additional 1 million,” Kishida said.

On the presumption of swift approval, 200,000 doses are expected to be delivered by the end of this year and another 200,000 doses each in February and March 2022.

Kishida said the government would draw up measures by June next year that drastically strengthen crisis management related to infections, including the reinforcement of a command center.

These pledges are expected to be included in the government’s comprehensive COVID-19 policies against a sixth wave, which will be decided Friday.