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Tokyo weighs using Olympic facility for coronavirus patients

Health officials scramble to find beds as cases hit record high

According to Tokyo officials, the city is also negotiating with private hotel operators to lease several buildings with 100 to 200 rooms. (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara)

TOKYO -- Tokyo is considering repurposing a facility designed for the 2020 Olympics to accommodate people mildly infected with the new coronavirus, as the Japanese capital grapples with rising infections.

People familiar with the matter said the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is considering using a facility currently under construction in Tokyo's waterfront area. The facility, scheduled for completion before the event starts in July, is designed to accommodate up to 8,000 police officers and other personnel during the Olympics.

Due to postponement of the games, the facility may be converted to receive people with mild COVID-19 symptoms after undergoing some changes.

According to Tokyo government officials, the city is also negotiating with private hotel operators to lease several buildings, with a target of securing rooms for 1,000 people.

Patients with mild symptoms are generally required to stay at home, but the government will have them stay at hotels if there is a risk of infecting family members.

There were more than 620 hospitalized patients as of Thursday, according to the city government. About 700 beds have been secured to treat people with COVID-19, but there is growing concern over a shortage as the number of infected people continues to rise.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tokyo increased by 97 on Thursday, the biggest daily bump to date.

The Tokyo government says about 80% of current hospitalized patients have mild symptoms. After consultation with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the city will ask these patients to move to their homes or temporary facilities.

The ministry has notified local authorities that patients with mild or asymptomatic conditions do not have to be hospitalized.

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