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Coronavirus

Tokyo changes tack on coronavirus, focusing on trends over daily cases

Stress on health care system gauged instead of numerical thresholds

The health care system's ability to handle an influx of patients will be tracked under Tokyo's new coronavirus response. (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara)

TOKYO -- Tokyo will no longer base its response to the coronavirus outbreak on numerical thresholds, but rather on the larger trends in new infections and the ability of hospitals to cope with an influx of patients, Gov. Yuriko Koike said Tuesday.

"Instead of focusing on individual numbers, we need to get the full picture," Koike said.

The metropolitan government will also scrap the Tokyo alert system, which urges the city's residents to exercise caution in response to certain conditions, like new daily cases averaging 20 or more in the past week. The alert was enacted once on June 2, shortly after Japan lifted its state of emergency on the capital.

Under the new system, which takes effect Wednesday, the Tokyo government will monitor seven indicators related to the coronavirus. Three of them -- new patient cases, fever-related inquiries to emergency services, and the number and increase in untraceable cases -- focus on the spread of the virus.

The rest focus on the health care system's ability to deal with the outbreak. They include the percentage of positive tests, how many times an ambulance is turned away by five or more hospitals or otherwise could not find a destination for 20 minutes, hospitalized patients, and patients in critical condition.

A metropolitan government panel will meet about once a week to discuss trends in these indicators, based on contributions from experts. The panel will issue warnings to the public as needed while keeping the potential economic toll into consideration.

Fifty-four new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Tokyo Tuesday, marking the fifth day in a row with over 50 new cases.

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