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Statement: We demand government revoke government’s irresponsible policy of asking coronavirus patients to stay home unless they are seriously ill and take measures as swiftly as possible to improve medical treatment and care systems as well as public health centers

Kurosawa Koichi
he National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
August 4, 2021

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s government has launched a new principle that “coronavirus patients should recuperate at home in principle” and that only patients with serious illness will be hospitalized, a measure ostensibly to cope with the fifth wave of virus infections.

By imposing the principle of “home recuperation” on the grounds that the pandemic has entered a new phase in which the more contagious delta variant is spreading, the government has made clear that it is relinquishing responsibility for protecting the lives of the people. We strongly protest against the irresponsible policy and demand its withdrawal and an early improvement of healthcare and the public health center system. It is outrageous for the government to give up responsibility for the safety of the people and force the principle of self-responsibility and self-help on the people.

In announcing the new policy, the government admitted that the medical care system is collapsing rather than merely reaching a breaking point, as Zenroren earlier pointed out.

Even since before the pandemic began, there were shortages of doctors, nurses, and public health nurses. But the government has turned its back on this reality. It has done nothing to improve the harsh reality which is exacerbating in the middle of the pandemic. On the contrary, the government has refused to give up on the Tokyo Olympic Games even though the healthcare services are forced to bear extra burden. The responsibility of the government must be severely called into question.

The need and method of treatment can be determined only by the doctor. The thing is not that the government can fulfill its responsibility only by issuing norms. The government says that patients should be hospitalized only after their conditions have turned critical. But it is often the case that a patient’s condition become critical. The new approach is incapable of responding to sudden changes of patients’ conditions, consequently failing to save lives. It has a responsibility to improve systems that ensure “early detection, early quarantine, and early treatment” of the coronavirus. A patient left at home without a doctor or a nurses to take care cannot get medical attention.

Osaka Prefecture has experienced a healthcare collapse in the fourth wave of infections that began in March, resulting in catastrophe, in which about 1,200 people dead. The number of patients who were asked to stay at home for recuperation reached 15,000. Among them 19 people died because they were not properly treated after their conditions worsened. The public health centers are totally inadequate. It’s been reported that there was a case in which a patient had been found dead before the public health center contacted the patient. This makes us worry that the similar situation may be seen in the present fifth wave of infections.

There is not time to lose.

The government should revoke the “home recuperation” policy in order to prevent the medical services from collapsing and take the necessary emergency measures after listening to experts and frontline professionals. If a further spread of infections is to be prevented, the government should immediately begin drastically improving the virus testing system as well as the healthcare, nursing care, and public health center systems on the state responsibility, as Zenroren has called for.

Zenroren lodges a strong protest against the government announcement that it will ask people to save their lives on their own and demands suspension of the Tokyo Games so that the government can do all it can to contain coronavirus infections. It will take emergency action seeking to make society give people’s safety and lives priority.

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