Amid mounting criticism over the low number of people who have been tested for COVID-19 in Japan compared to its neighboring countries, screenings are being covered from Friday by the national health insurance in an effort to increase testing.

But whether more people will be screened as a result remains uncertain, and confusion is spreading among some municipalities and hospitals that don't have the necessary equipment to test for the novel coronavirus.

At the same time, the health ministry is calling on the private sector to help develop faster, more reliable and cheaper testing methods.