Japanese Governor Warns That Region's Hospitals Are 'on the Verge of Collapse' Amid COVID Spike

The governor of Osaka, Japan recently warned that the region's hospitals are on the "verge of collapse" amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

"Medical systems are on the verge of collapse," Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said during a press conference on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press reported that according to health officials in the region, roughly 70 percent of hospital beds in Osaka are now occupied with COVID-19 patients, prompting Yoshimura to declare a "medical emergency."

On Wednesday, there were 878 new COVID-19 cases reported in Osaka, and the region now has reported over 56,000 confirmed cases of the virus.

According to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University, Osaka has the second most confirmed cases of the virus following Tokyo, with more than 123,000 cases.

Osaka, Japan
People walk in a shopping site at Umeda entertainment district on March 5, in Osaka, Japan. According to health officials in the region, roughly 70 percent of hospital beds in Osaka are now occupied with COVID-19 patients. Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Yoshimura, who previously asked for a cancellation of the torch relay only in Osaka city, said all segments on public roads should be canceled. The Olympic organizing committee said later Wednesday that it will hold the Osaka leg of the Olympic torch run, scheduled for April 13 to 14, at the 1970 Osaka Expo commemorative park.

The Tokyo Olympics are to start in just over three months with Japan's vaccination drive still in its initial stages. Experts say more contagious new variants of the virus are becoming more common and are urging health officials to respond quickly to prevent an explosive increase with only a fraction of the people inoculated.

The measures come two days after Yoshimura issued a set of special virus control measures for Osaka city alone following Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's decision to place the prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi under a semi-emergency.

Osaka's neighboring prefecture of Hyogo is also facing an upsurge and has imposed special virus measures in four cities beginning Monday, along with Sendai, a city in the northern prefecture of Miyagi.

Infections also have surged elsewhere in the western region, which experts say may require additional virus protection measures and stay-home requests, possibly leading to the cancellation of more torch events, a further setback for the Olympics.

Yoshimura said he plans to issue an emergency request for residents of Osaka prefecture to avoid nonessential outings beginning Thursday.

Still, experts say Tokyo is on a rebound, with people going out in droves, commuting to work and dining and partying at restaurants and bars.

"A new wave of infections has begun. There is no doubt about that," said Ryuji Wakita, director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases who heads a government COVID-19 advisory board.