The sharp increase has prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to extend the state of emergency from seven prefectures to the entire country. On Friday, he also promised to provide medical equipment such as surgical masks, gowns and face shields to hospitals struggling with acute gear shortages within a week. Earlier this week, a team of government experts warned that Japan could have more than 400,000 coronavirus-related deaths if measures such as social distancing are not taken. But most deaths, they warned, could result from a lack of ventilators.
The shortage of medical supplies became clear this week when Osaka mayor Ichiro Matsui urged people to donate unused raincoats for health workers to use as personal protective equipment, after they'd been forced to wear trash bags. Experts say medical shortages combined with comparatively low testing rates and Japan's lack of provision for teleworking threatens to create a potentially explosive uptick in cases.