Photo/Illutration Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks at a special news conference at the Tokyo metropolitan government building on Dec. 21. (Rihito Karube)

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Dec. 21 said the capital will pay medical institutions to accept new COVID-19 patients during the year-end and New Year holidays and pharmacies that supply medicine to treat them.

Koike announced the plan at a special news conference as the number of patients continues to soar in the capital.

She also strongly urged residents to “please place top priority on your lives during the year-end and New Year holidays this year,” adding, “I really ask you to refrain from going out and to stay home with your families.”

Tokyo's financial assistance will cover six days between Dec. 29 and Jan. 3, when the medical capacity of hospitals and clinics is stretched thin every year even in normal times.

Medical institutions will get 300,000 yen ($2,900) per day from the metropolitan government for each COVID-19 patient they accept with serious symptoms. They will receive 70,000 yen per day for each patient with mild and moderate symptoms.

The financial assistance will cover not only new patients but also patients who have already been hospitalized.

The number of COVID-19 hospital patients in Tokyo stood at 2,154 as of Dec. 21, more than doubling since Nov. 1, when it had 1,013.

New Year's Day next year is on a Friday, with the New Year holidays falling on the weekend, when fewer new patients are usually admitted due to fewer medical personnel being on duty.

The situation has led many health care experts to express concerns over having enough medical capacity around the turn of the year.

Tokyo plans to offer medical clinics and other facilities that treat and test patients with high fevers over the six days 150,000 yen for each four-hour period they are in operation to encourage them to open.

Pharmacies that remain open to cooperate with such medical institutions will receive 30,000 yen per day from the capital.

Koike also announced several closures of facilities operated by the metropolitan government from Dec. 26 through Jan. 11 to help reduce crowds over the holiday period, including Ueno Zoological Gardens and Hama-rikyu Gardens.

“Please refrain from going out, except when necessary, such as going shopping (for food and daily products) or going to hospitals,” Koike said.

She also asked Tokyo residents not to return to their hometowns and to avoid meeting relatives and friends during the year-end and New Year holidays.

(This article was written by Rihito Karube and Chiaki Ogihara.)