As Japan re-opens, a hospital grapples with COVID

It was the site of one of the worst hit hospitals of the coronavirus outbreaks in Japan.

When Reuters visited the 500 bed - Yokohama City Seibu Hospital, near Tokyo - it was lined with elderly patients waiting to have their temperatures checked, before entering.

But at the start of June it had over 80 patients who tested positive for COVID-19, including 43 staff members.

By the time it was contained, 13 elderly patients had died.

It sat empty for most of May.

Now as Japan emerges from a state of emergency, hospitals like Seibu face are operating alongside a virus with no treatment or cure.

However, Doctor Yoshihiro Masui says lessons can be learnt from their experience:

"There were cases (in the past) where we inadvertently touched our faces after touching keyboards or mouses which had already been touched by others. This is known as contact infection. I think we should reflect about how our habit of thorough hand washing was not perfect."

Seibu was among the first to mobilize for Japan's pandemic, and accepted sick passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

After treating dozens of covid patients, they let in a man with no obvious symptoms before discharging him.

By the time the staff learned he had the virus in late April, it had spring to other wings of the hospital.

Masui says he feels responsible. He told Reuters he pushed Seibu to take in suspected patients, knowing that quote "other hospitals were turning them away."

More than 18,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Japan.

While the number of new cases has fallen since mid-April, for medical workers, new outbreaks remain a constant threat.

"If there is any concern that this patient might be infected with coronavirus, we have to put on protection first".

Now regular operations are back up and running at the hospital but precautions are being taken, limited to only 60 patients at a time.

And patients say they have trust in the hospital's new steps.

"I think they are managing properly, and I see them working hard here. So, I came here with the mindset that I have to believe them."