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Suspected COVID-19 sufferers in Osaka Prefecture were forced to wait up to 10 days in mid-April before they were given polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which detect infection, Jiji Press learned Sunday.

As of Friday, some people in Osaka still had to wait about five days before getting tested.

The long waiting times reflect a surge in the overall number of possible virus carriers and the preference given to the testing of severely ill patients and people connected to infection clusters, according to officials with the city’s public health center.

Osaka Prefecture, where the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases has exceeded 1,600, has the capacity to conduct 420 PCR tests per day. It plans to boost the daily number to some 890 with the help of private-sector testing bodies.

In response to the outbreak, a clinic in Osaka Prefecture has asked patients with fevers to visit during specific times of day when they will be seen by staff members in protective suits.

The head of the clinic complained that local health centers are rejecting most testing requests for patients recognized by doctors as in need of being tested. He said he knows of a case in which a health center refused to conduct a PCR test on a patient who had been found to have pneumonia.

“It’s really hard for patients not to be tested for days despite having a fever of 39 degrees Celsius,” the clinic head said. “My heart bleeds for patients who are forced to bear such a heavy burden for the sake of preventing the medical care system from collapsing.”

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