Japan Data

Japan Introduces New Criteria for Assessing Spread of COVID-19

Health Society

More than 70% of Japan’s population has now been vaccinated against COVID-19, but the pandemic is not over. A government advisory panel has introduced a new system for assessing the spread of the coronavirus based on the pressure on medical services.

The Japanese government’s COVID-19 advisory panel has decided on new criteria for assessing the spread of infection.

Previously the government defined four stages, based mainly on the number of new infections per 100,000 people, as well as the hospital bed occupancy rate. Stage 4, the most serious, was an indicator for when a state of emergency was required.

In the new system, there are five levels from 0 to 4, based on the pressure on medical services. One of the criteria for jumping from level 2 to level 3 is a hospital bed occupancy rate climbing over 50% for both ordinary and severe cases. Prefectures can make a decision based on all factors to raise the level to 3, and implement emergency or pre-emergency measures.

New Criteria for COVID-19 Assessment

Situation Desired Response
Level 4 (Aim to avoid)
  • Ordinary medical services are severely limited; medical institutions cannot treat COVID-19.
  • Patients needing treatment outnumber available hospital beds.
  • Further reduction of ordinary medical services.
  • National government support for and organization of emergency medical care at the prefectural level.
Level 3 (Strengthen measures): equivalent to stage 4 and the top level of stage 3 in the former system.
Limits are placed on ordinary medical services required to treat COVID-19.
  • Consideration of emergency and pre-emergency measures.
  • Securing of further hospital beds.
  • In large cities, limits to number of people and opening hours at bars/restaurants and events, and halt to face-to-face classes.
Level 2 (Increase caution)
The number of new infections is on the rise, but increasing hospital bed availability enables necessary treatment.
  • Calls for avoidance of activities with high risk of infection.
  • Strengthening of public healthcare system.
  • Securing of hospital beds in stages.
Level 1 (Aim to maintain)
Ordinary medical services can be provided stably; COVID-19 treatment is also possible in hospitals.
  • Continued vaccinations.
  • Strengthening of healthcare system.
  • Continued basic infection prevention measures.
Level 0
  • Ordinary medical services are stable and COVID-19 treatment is also possible.
  • While new infections continue in major cities, there are zero cases in some prefectures.
  • Continued vaccinations.
  • Strengthening of healthcare system.
  • Continued basic infection prevention measures.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: Crowds in Ginza, Tokyo, on October 23, 2021, following the lifting of the state of emergency. © Jiji.)

coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic