TOKYO: The Japanese government should expand polymerase chain reaction tests and strengthen medical systems to prepare for a possible second wave of novel coronavirus infections, a government experts panel has said.
When Japan saw a spike in COVID-19 cases from early to mid-April, it became difficult in some regions to conduct PCR tests promptly on suspected cases for which doctors saw the need to carry out virus tests, the panel said Friday.
The panel, headed by Takaji Wakita, director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, requested the government ensure virus tests can be taken quickly after coronavirus consultations by increasing testing personnel and make better use of virus testing companies.
The panel also called for using antigen and PCR tests appropriately, taking into account the differences in their strong points.
The panel held its first meeting since the government fully lifted the coronavirus state of emergency Monday.
Regarding the country's medical systems, the panel said the government should determine the minimum numbers of beds the prefectural governments should prepare even when infection numbers are low, so that the beds can be made available to coronavirus patients anytime.
Enough preparations should be made so that large clusters of 100 to 140 infections can be handled, the panel also said.
As possible reasons for the low number of confirmed coronavirus-linked deaths in Japan, the panel said public awareness of hygiene is high and that the country's strategy of identifying who started infection clusters may have worked.
Over the panel, the government failed to compile transcripts of remarks by participants to the team, which met a total of 15 times from its first meeting in February.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the government compiles only outlines of discussions that do not identify who made specific remarks. This is because participants make frank proposals to the government, Nishimura said.
Regarding the fight against COVID-19, the health ministry has revised requirements for ending the hospitalization of those infected with the coronavirus.
The new rules allow infected people to be discharged without a PCR test if at least 14 days have passed since they developed symptoms and 72 hours have passed since their symptoms began improving.
The previous rules required negative results of at least two PCR tests, one conducted at least 24 hours after symptoms began improving and another carried out 24 hours later.
The ministry changed the rules after scientific studies have found that the risk of virus carriers infecting others decreases substantially seven to 10 days after the carriers began developing symptoms, officials said.