HOSPITALS in Japan are on the brink of collapse with beds and ventilators running dangerously low amid a huge influx of Covid cases – just eight weeks before the country is due to host the Olympics.
Hospitals in the city of Osaka, Japan's second-largest city, are at breaking point as the fourth wave of the pandemic sweeps the nation, sparking calls for the international sporting event to be scrapped.
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The hardest hit is Japan's western region, home to 9 million residents – which accounted for a third of the country's deaths in May, despite only making up just 7% of its population.
Yuji Tohda, the director of Kindai University Hospital in Osaka issued a stark warning that: "Simply put, this is a collapse of the medical system.
"The highly infectious British variant and slipping alertness have led to this explosive growth in the number of patients," he told the Mail Online.
It has ignited fears that the Olympics, due to be held in just two months, will put even more pressure on the healthcare system.
"The Olympics should be stopped, because we already have failed to stop the flow of new variants from England, and next might be an inflow of Indian variants," Akira Takasu, the head of emergency medicine at the Osaka Medical and Pharmaceutical University Hospital said.
"In the Olympics, 70,000 or 80,000 athletes and the people will come to this country from around the world. This may be a trigger for another disaster in the summer."
It comes after MP Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told of the possibility of cancellation just a day after Tokyo reached the 100-days-to-go mark last week.
Asked by reporters if calling the Olympics off was still an option, he said: "Of course."
But he also added: "It is important for Japan to have a successful Olympics. It is a big opportunity. I want to make it a success.
"We will have many issues to resolve and prepare, and it is important to take care of them one by one."
Osaka recorded 3,849 positive tests in the week up to Thursday, figures almost five times higher than three months ago.
Only 14% of the city's 13,770 Covid sufferers have been hospitalised, meaning most of the infected masses are left to their own devices.
The Olympics are due to be held in Tokyo from July 23, where hospital admissions in the capital are currently at a rate of 37%.
Officials told this month how 17 people who were not admitted to hospital have died from the virus since March.
But a whopping 96% of Osaka's 348 hospital beds reserved for extremely poorly Covid patients are now in use.
Todha's hospital is wading through a huge shortage of ventilators, while suppliers have complained to medics that propofol – a sedation drug used on intubated patients – is running severely low in stock.
The variants gripping the globe have exacerbated Japan's crisis further and hospital staff are struggling to cope with demand.
"The variant can make even young people very sick quickly, and once seriously ill, patients find it tough to make a recovery, said Toshiaki Minami, director of OMPUH.
"I believe that until now many young people thought they were invincible. But that can't be the case this time around. Everyone is equally bearing the risk."
Japan was among the last major countries to begin Covid vaccinations when it started in mid-February.
The country is currently dependent on Pfizer’s jab, as it’s the only Covid vaccine that has been approved by domestic regulators.
Only around half of Japan's medical workers have been inoculated.
Satsuki Nakayama, the head of the nursing department at OMPUH, said: "I've got some intensive care unit (ICU) staff saying they have reached a breaking point.
"I need to think of personnel change to bring in people from other hospital wings."
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