Photo/Illutration Staff at the Tokyo metropolitan government’s new multilingual COVID-19 support center provide telephone consultation to patients recuperating at home on Jan. 31. (Shinnosuke Ito)

Authorities in Tokyo opened a multilingual hotline to provide consultations to deal with surging numbers of COVID-19 patients recuperating at home.

The support center run by the Tokyo metropolitan government offers advice in Japanese and 11 other languages. They are: English, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Portuguese, Spanish, Burmese, French, Thai and Tagalog. The phone number is 0120-670-440.

It targets patients under the age of 50 who are being asked to monitor their condition at home on their own because they display only mild or no symptoms and have no underlying health conditions.

The center operates around the clock with up to 300 phone lines available.

The number of COVID-19 patients recovering at home in Tokyo as of Jan. 31 stood at 71,960.

The center was shown to media representatives on Jan. 31, when it started operations. Staff were seen entering information on callers, including dates of their COVID-19 diagnoses, into computers as they spoke with patients over the phone.

Staff also place orders for food deliveries and pulse oximeters to patients’ homes upon request.

Staff transfer calls from those whose condition has worsened to a follow-up center where nurses respond to calls since support center personnel are not medical professionals.

The support center received around 6,000 phone calls on the morning of Jan. 31. Of the roughly 1,800 calls it handled, 130 were transferred to the follow-up center.

Until now, follow-up and local public health centers, as well as about 1,400 medical institutions commissioned by the metropolitan government, had, in principle, monitored the health of all COVID-19 patients resting at home.

But a recent spike in daily cases prompted the government to check on the condition of only those at a high risk of becoming seriously ill and ask others to monitor their health on their own.