The health ministry has begun reviewing Japan's health care system in preparation for a possible sixth wave of coronavirus infections, following numerous cases of people dying at home during the previous resurgence.

In addition to asking existing medical institutions to secure sufficient hospital beds, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare also plans to increase the number of temporary medical facilities such as gyms and strengthen coordination of personnel, according to officials.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (front, 2nd from R) watches a medical staffer examining a patient online at a company providing a doctor home dispatch service in Tokyo's Shinjuku area on Sept. 15, 2021. (Kyodo)

Nationwide daily infections peaked at around 25,800 on Aug. 20 during the last, or the fifth, resurgence. While prefectures had planned for numbers to double that of the third wave, some areas saw more than triple.

In communications with local governments on Sept. 14 on establishing a medium- to long-term medical system to treat COVID-19 patients, the ministry stressed the importance of maintaining a balance with treatment for other illnesses.

Infections have been increasing even in countries that rolled out their vaccination programs earlier than Japan, so a resurgence should be expected moving forward, it said.

The government additionally outlined plans to strengthen monitoring and emergency hospital admission of patients recuperating at home, and requested a system be created in advance to coordinate and train personnel.

It also asked local governments to consider utilizing provisions under a revised infectious disease law, which allows the authorities to release the names of hospitals that do not have a valid reason for noncompliance.

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