Saturday’s Nikkei reported that Health Ministry officials who are licensed doctors have apparently impeded the Abe administration’s response to what the paper described as an unprecedented public health crisis. According to the article, these officials have cited various medical data and views to reject the Kantei’s call for implementing broad PCR diagnostic testing. The daily said Japan’s hesitance to conduct vigorous testing prompted the U.S. Embassy to state on April 3 that it is “difficult to accurately assess the COVID-19 prevalence rate.” The paper also noted that the ministry has been cautious about the Kantei’s efforts to tap the influenza drug Avigan for treating COVID-19 and allow patients to consult with doctors via video. While saying that the Japan Medical Association, a powerful lobbying group representing clinic doctors, is close to these ministry officials, the article expressed apprehension that the schism between the Kantei and the ministry may stall the nation’s handling of the outbreak.
In related stories, all dailies wrote that the video or telephone consultations with doctors will be allowed starting on April 13, saying that patients will also be able to obtain prescription drugs by mail on the condition that they first receive advice from pharmacists online. The deregulatory measures will reportedly be effective only through the duration of the virus outbreak.