Japan accused of ‘massaging’ coronavirus figures ahead of Tokyo Olympics – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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Japan accused of ‘massaging’ coronavirus figures ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Written by on June 13, 2021

The accuracy of coronavirus figures released by the Japanese government has been called into question after the health ministry adopted new criteria for its calculations at the beginning of June.

Previously, the total bed occupancy rate for people with the virus included inpatients in hospitals as well as people quarantining at home as they waited to be admitted to a hospital for treatment. It also included people who were not in hospital beds specifically set aside for coronavirus patients.

Under the health ministry’s revised calculation method, people at home awaiting a space in a hospital are no longer counted in the bed occupancy rates. Similarly, non-critical coronavirus patients in ordinary hospital wards have been dropped from the ministry’s totals.

The new method immediately enabled the ministry to reduce the number of prefectures with bed occupancy rates above 50 per cent – considered to be Stage 4 of “explosive infection rate” and where the health-care system is on the brink of collapse – from 20 prefectures to just 11.

The hospital bed occupancy rate is significant as it is one of the indicators that the government uses to monitor the pandemic and introduce or cancel state-of-emergency orders.

Similarly, the panel of medical experts set up by the government to advise on the handling of the pandemic has repeatedly stated that the Olympic Games should not go ahead if Japan is still in Stage 4 of the pandemic.

Thanks to the new figures, the government was able to announce on Thursday that it will on Monday lift the state of emergency restrictions in three prefectures as infection figures have fallen sufficiently in recent weeks. Bans on restaurants and bars serving alcohol will be lifted and venues will no longer have to close at 8pm in Gunma, Ishikawa and Kumamoto prefectures. The government is expected to make a similar decision for five further prefectures next week.

Katsunobu Kato, the chief cabinet secretary, said in a press conference this week that the changes in the calculation method was done to “unify” the way the figures are collated nationwide and would give the authorities a better understanding of the number of people occupying beds. – asiaone.com

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