Photo/Illutration Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks at a Jan. 27 news conference. (Kayoko Sekiguchi)

The Tokyo metropolitan government starting on Jan. 31 will ask public health offices to stop monitoring the conditions of COVID-19 patients under 50 years old who are recuperating at home.

The local offices and a follow-up center staffed by nurses will give priority to at-home patients who are at higher risk of requiring hospitalization, those with pre-existing medical conditions as well as those 50 and older.

Tokyo has recorded more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases on a daily basis. About 50,000 infected residents were recuperating at home on Jan. 27, compared with about 19,000 the previous week.

Under the new policy, COVID-19 patients under 50 will have to call a consulting service if their conditions worsen at home, even if the severity of the symptoms makes it difficult for them to communicate coherently.

“It is not realistic to completely monitor the health of all patients,” said a metropolitan government official working on the health monitoring program. “We have put in place a system that will allow access to those who are really facing difficulties.”

The metropolitan government plans to open up 300 additional phone lines for Tokyo residents not high on the priority list for health monitoring. Such patients would be connected to medical institutions depending on their condition.

Metropolitan government officials will also try to reduce the number of senior citizens who are hospitalized with COVID-19.

If several residents of retirement homes and other facilities for seniors become infected at the same time, they would not be taken to hospitals. Instead, doctors would make house calls to the facility to check on the conditions of the patients under the new system.

Those measures were disclosed at a Jan. 27 meeting of experts advising the Tokyo metropolitan government about dealing with the pandemic.

The metropolitan government also plans to deny entry to designated accommodation facilities to COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic or with minor symptoms.

The Tokyo government plans to secure at most 7,900 rooms at such facilities and wants to reserve those places for people at risk of developing serious symptoms.

“Unfortunately, we are asking those with minor or no symptoms to rest at home as much as possible,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said at a Jan. 27 news conference.

The health monitoring system was set up based on lessons learned during the fifth wave of COVID-19 infections last summer, when some Tokyo patients died at their homes before they could enter a hospital for proper medical treatment.

The metropolitan government asked about 1,400 medical institutions to assist in monitoring the health of COVID-19 patients resting at home to help alleviate the burden on local public health offices.

(This article was written by Kayoko Sekiguchi and Shin Kasahara.)