TOKYO: The Japanese health ministry on Monday started collecting blood samples to be used for antibody tests to check for a history of infection with the novel coronavirus.
The sample collection began in Tokyo and the northeastern Japan prefecture of Miyagi and will start in the western Japan prefecture of Osaka on Wednesday.
Samples from a total of some 10,000 people will be collected in the three prefectures.
In Tokyo, the ministry will collect samples from some 1,000 people each in Itabashi, Toshima and Nerima wards by Saturday. The blood donors will be notified of whether they have COVID-19 antibodies in late June or later.
The health ministry plans to conduct COVID-19 antibody testing on around 3,000 people each in Tokyo and Osaka, where there are comparatively many coronavirus cases, and on about the same number of residents in Miyagi, which has fewer cases.
The ministry hopes to use the test results to estimate the extent of the virus' spread in the country and devise measures to prevent further infections.