TOKYO -- Japan will permit any hospital with proper equipment to admit coronavirus patients in an emergency, as the country faces a potential shortage of beds should the outbreak spread.
The government had limited coronavirus patients to isolated chambers at several designated facilities across Japan. But the total of about 1,800 beds at these medical centers raised concern that the sites would be overwhelmed in an epidemic. China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, has confirmed 42,638 cases through Monday, with 1,016 deaths.
Japan's health ministry issued guidance Tuesday allowing other medical facilities that can secure protective gear to take patients during an emergency. Coronavirus patients could be placed in the same room with each other.
Local governments were urged to make independent and flexible decisions regarding whom to screen for the virus, rather than strictly following current eligibility rules covering only people who recently traveled to China's Hubei Province and those who came in contract with such travelers.
"We are not facing an outbreak domestically right now, but we are proactively bolstering our medical and screening capacity," a ministry representative said.
At least 135 individuals aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama have tested positive for the coronavirus. Another 28 patients have been confirmed in Japan, including two men who initially tested negative after returning on a government-chartered plane from the Chinese city of Wuhan.