Nikkei reported on the opening on Thursday of a coronavirus testing facility by the SoftBank Group at Kohnodai Hospital, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, in Chiba Prefecture. The facility has a capacity of 4,000 tests per day and aims to ramp up capacity to 10,000 tests per day by the end of this year. The facility conducts saliva-based PCR tests upon request by local governments and private companies, and each test, excluding shipping and packaging, costs 2,000 yen ($19), one tenth of the average cost of tests conducted by the private sector.
Although Softbank conducts testing under the guidance of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, it cannot issue certificates for negative results because medical doctors will not be involved in the testing there. Japan’s overall PCR testing capacity is still under 70,000 per day, much lower than in the United States (500,000) and the UK (300,000), because taking a blood or mucus sample from a patient is designated as a “medical practice” that is only permitted to be done by doctors, nurses, and clinical laboratory technicians in Japan. The paper noted that it will be necessary for the GOJ to take such measures as deregulating medical practices, utilizing antigen tests, and increasing private sector testing to prepare for a potential rise in COVID-19 cases in the fall and winter.