To protect hospital workers from the new coronavirus, the health ministry will allow first-time patients to receive medical examinations and prescriptions online or via telephone starting next week, the health minister said Friday.

Patients who choose to receive such services will also be able to get their prescribed medicines at home via courier after receiving instructions on their use from a pharmacist by telephone.

“We are planning on releasing prefecture-by-prefecture lists of medical facilities where the services are available,” Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference.

First-time patients will be able to make use of the new services as long as the pandemic continues but will have to see a doctor in person to get medicines after it ends.

The health ministry has tentatively set an online consultation fee for first-time patients of ¥2,140 ($20), with patients paying up to ¥642 depending on type of health insurance, ministry sources said.

The cost is roughly three-quarters of the ¥2,880 newcomers are regularly charged for their first medical examinations, with patients paying up to ¥864.

Those who wish to receive medical exams without person-to-person contact will be asked to choose a medical institution from a list to be published by the ministry and make reservations via phone or smartphone.

The service will apply to general patients as well as those who test positive for the coronavirus but show light or no symptoms and are self-isolating at home or other accommodations.

Additionally, the health ministry is planning to adopt measures against identity fraud and other practices aimed at abusing the new services. Doctors will also only be able to prescribe a set list of medications without seeing a patient.

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