Japan to start random PCR testing to grasp infections in cities

Jan 26 , 2021. 7:54 AM. 14 hours ago – 19:52 KYODO NEWS

Photo taken Dec. 14, 2020, shows PCR testing equipment installed at Shigakkan University in Obu in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

TOKYO – Japan will commence random mass PCR testing as early as March as part of efforts to ascertain the extent of the novel coronavirus’ spread in city areas, government sources said Monday.

The central government is aiming to conduct up to several thousand polymerase chain reaction tests per day in Tokyo, Osaka and other metropolitan areas seeing a high number of cases, with the goal of using the information to develop effective virus prevention measures, the sources said.

In contrast with local government testing that only targets people who show symptoms or have had close contact with infected individuals, random people will be tested to determine how much the virus has spread in a particular city.

The costs of the tests, which will be carried out by contracted private companies, will be fully covered by the central government. The tests are expected to be conducted at airports, as well as places where crowds tend to gather such as city centers, companies and universities.

In addition to on-site collection of mucus and saliva samples, specimens collected using testing kits will also be accepted by mail. The results will be released to individuals but will also be used anonymously in statistical data.

The government also plans to collect information on Twitter and other social media to track changes in people’s attitudes toward the pandemic, the sources said. The data, along with the results of the random PCR tests, will be analyzed using artificial intelligence, aiming to detect a potential surge in infections at an early stage.

Cr. KYODO NEWS