Japan plans to revise its criteria for testing people suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus, its health minister said Wednesday, as the country continues to tackle cases of new infections under an extended state of emergency through the end of the month.
The new guidelines, to be set by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare soon, would no longer limit the testing to people who have developed a fever of 37.5 C or higher for at least four days.
People who feel they have developed a high fever would be able to immediately consult local a health care center, which will then refer them to an outpatient clinic or medical institution. If the doctors deem it necessary, they can then take a polymerase chain reaction test.
The changes will be introduced after many people were unable to be tested because they did not meet the existing guidelines. In some cases, their conditions worsened.
“Body temperatures are different for every person,” health minister Katsunobu Kato said.
Currently in Japan, PCR tests for the virus are only carried out on people who have symptoms such as a fever of 37.5 C or higher for at least four days, or two in the case of the elderly, those with a chronic disease and pregnant women.
Under the envisioned changes, people with mild cold-like symptoms such as fever and a cough for at least four days in a row will be advised to consult a local health care center, even if their fever is not above 37.5 C.
The number of PCR tests carried out in Japan has been very low due to a lack of human resources and advanced preparation. The government is hoping to ramp up its capacity and conduct 20,000 such tests a day.
According to data disclosed by a government panel of experts, Japan has conducted 188 PCR tests per 10,000 people, while many other countries have done more than 1,000.
In late April, the ministry shifted its policy of having patients with asymptomatic or mild cases recuperate on their own, following the cases of two men in Saitama Prefecture who were self-isolating at home but died when their conditions suddenly took a turn for the worst.
Based on a nationwide survey on the state of facilities housing COVID-19 patients, the ministry found that of the total of 8,711 patients, 1,984 are in their homes, compared with 862 in hotels and other accommodations.
Those who tested positive and are hospitalized account for the largest number at 5,558, 147 patients are at social welfare facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities, while the rest are in unconfirmed locations, according to the study released Wednesday. The figures as of April 28 were obtained from prefectural governments.
Amid moves to develop therapeutic drug and vaccines worldwide, Kitasato University in Tokyo said Wednesday it will launch clinical trials on the drug Ivermectin, an effective treatment for parasitic diseases. Satoshi Omura, professor emeritus at the university and a Nobel laureate, helped develop the drug, seen overseas as a possible coronavirus treatment.
To prevent the further spread of the virus, Japan on Monday extended the nationwide state of emergency.
On Wednesday, the Tokyo metropolitan government confirmed 38 new virus infections, the fourth straight day the figure has come in under 100.