Guidelines eyed to prevent low-risk COVID patients filling hospital beds

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nurses treat COVID-19 patients in Ota Ward, Tokyo, in January.

The government is mulling guidelines to determine when low-risk coronavirus patients who are receiving treatment in hospital can be sent home, to prevent medical facilities from being overwhelmed in the event of a surge in critically ill cases.

Under the government’s current criteria, COVID-19 patients with mild or moderate symptoms can be discharged at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms and at least 72 hours after their health begins to improve.

Among the 1,321 patients hospitalized in January, 168 patients became seriously ill and required oxygen therapy, according to data the National Hospital Organization presented to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry panel on Wednesday.

Among the severe patients, 89% required oxygen within three days of being hospitalized.

Based on the data, the government believes that if hospitalized patients do not require oxygen within around four days, they can recuperate at home because the risk of them developing serious symptoms is low.

“The government will consider how to respond after seeking opinions from experts,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Thursday.