Photo/Illutration Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike attends a meeting on the COVID-19 health crisis at the metropolitan government office in Shinjuku Ward on Aug. 12. (Rihito Karube)

The Tokyo metropolitan government said it has secured 36 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients whose requests for medical treatment are rejected by all hospitals contacted.

The 36 beds chosen at 11 Tokyo-run and other hospitals will be used to temporarily treat COVID-19 patients until vacant beds become available, the government said Aug. 12. 

Only some of the beds can be used to treat seriously ill patients, and the metropolitan government has yet to decide on the specific requirements for access to the beds. 

Increasingly, hospitals in the capital have had to turn away COVID-19 patients because their beds are already filled up. Infected individuals have ended up stuck inside ambulances or been forced to go home and wait for a hospital bed to become available.

Under the central government’s new policy, hospitalizations in areas hit hard by the virus should be limited to patients in serious condition or who are at risk of developing serious symptoms.

The Tokyo metropolitan government will try to reduce the number of patients in the latter category by promoting the use of an antibody cocktail therapy.

The therapy is believed effective in reducing the risk of serious symptoms developing among obese patients and those with underlying diseases.

About 20 special hospital beds for the therapy have been secured in the capital, a metropolitan government official said.

Patients aged 50 or older who are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill will be given priority for the special beds.

Under the initial phase of the plan, patients recuperating at accommodation facilities will be transferred to the special beds and spend a night there while undergoing the antibody cocktail therapy.

The metropolitan government plans to eventually dispatch doctors to an accommodation facility for use as a temporary medical center, and provide the cocktail therapy for patients recuperating at other hotels.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Tokyo reached 3,667 on Aug. 11, accounting for 56.8 percent of the hospital beds.

The number of patients with serious symptoms has increased, particularly among people in their 40s and 50s.

The Tokyo metropolitan government defines serious cases as those requiring ventilators or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, also known as an ECMO lung bypass machine.

If the health ministry’s definition of “serious” is used, which also includes patients in intensive care units, Tokyo’s bed-occupancy rate for patients in serious condition would be nearly 80 percent.

The number of patients recuperating at home in Tokyo was 20,726 as of Aug. 12, up by about 3,800 from a week earlier.

(This article was written by Rihito Karube and Yoshitaka Unezawa.)