The Nippon Foundation to Help Transport COVID-19 Patients, Medical Professionals [2020/05/26]
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo on May 20, 2020, I announce The Nippon Foundation’s second initiative in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this time to help transport doctors and nurses, and patients with minor symptoms, to and from hospital.
The Nippon Foundation has announced a new, one billion yen initiative to help transport to and from hospital coronavirus patients with mild symptoms, and doctors and nurses working around the clock to combat COVID-19.
I made the announcement at a press conference on May 20 when there were still about 4,500 COVID-19 patients across Japan, including 1,500 in Tokyo, who were being looked after in hospital. This was the foundation’s second project in response to the pandemic, following the one we announced in April to set up a makeshift facility in Tokyo with up to 600 beds for patients who are asymptomatic or exhibit only minor symptoms.
Under the new initiative, the foundation will first distribute taxi vouchers worth up to one million yen to each of about 200 medical institutions in Tokyo that are treating COVID-19 patients. They will be used by doctors and nurses when they go to and from hospital over a three-month period, starting June 2.
Second, we will team up with major taxi operator Nihon Kotsu Co. to lease up to 100 specially designed vehicles for 10 months from early June for transporting COVID-19 patients with slight symptoms to and from hospital and other accommodations where they are being taken care of.
To prevent airborne droplets from the patient reaching the driver, the interior of the vehicle, which is based on a Toyota JPN Taxi, is divided into two compartments. The front compartment is for the driver and the rear compartment is for the COVID-19 patient. A fan will continuously extract air from the rear compartment.
The costs of outfitting and leasing the vehicles, hiring drivers (their remuneration will include hazard pay) and other expenses are estimated to total 800 million yen. Drivers will be assigned by Nihon Kotsu from among those of its employees who agree to transport COVID-19 patients with minor symptoms.
Donations made to the foundation by some 16,000 people since early April in response to the coronavirus outbreak, totaling about 860 million yen as of May 20, will cover most of the costs.
I might note that a great majority of the donors requested that the money be used to support doctors and nurses who are looking after COVID-19 patients, night and day. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my wholehearted gratitude to them for their contributions.
After scrutinizing what we do in Tokyo, which has the largest number of confirmed cases of the disease and the highest hospital occupancy rate, the foundation will consider providing similar assistance to other parts of the country.
On May 25, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced he was lifting the state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, as well as the northernmost island prefecture of Hokkaido, thus ending the state of emergency nationwide. As he noted, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Japan.
But as an old saying goes, providing is preventing. I believe we need to prepare for a second and third wave of COVID-19 infections, given that no vaccine or proven drug treatments have yet been developed.
We are determined to help doctors, nurses and other professionals, who have saved so many lives from the disease by risking their own, continue to perform their crucially important mission.