LUND, Sweden: From a sporting perspective, the Tokyo Olympics were a massive success for Japan. Finishing third behind the Olympic behemoths of the US and China, Japan secured a record 27 gold medals.
Yet, as the closing ceremony reached a crescendo, on the Tokyo streets ambulances were taking patients from hospital to hospital in a desperate search for available beds.
During the first week of August, there were 2,897 cases of ambulances unable to admit patients to hospitals nationwide, a sharp increase from previous weeks. And with the Delta variant now dominant, each day is currently seeing a record-breaking number of new COVID-19 cases.
Just before the Olympics, everything seemed to be on track: Japan’s vaccination programme had just reached the impressive milestone of 1 million vaccinations per day, case numbers were manageable, and both the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government had promised a “safe and secure” games.
Since then, though, Japan’s situation has nose-dived.
OPERATING IN ‘DISASTER MODE’
Japan is now facing not only record cases, but also record numbers of severely ill patients: 1,974 as of Aug 26, 2021. In Tokyo alone, daily infections have topped 4,000 throughout August, including more than 270 severe cases at the time of writing.
New guidelines stipulating that only high-risk patients be hospitalised mean that more than 20,000 infected individuals in Tokyo are staying at home.
Unsurprisingly, reports are emerging of patients whose conditions have deteriorated rapidly, in some cases ending in death.