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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has started using a new system to gather, compile and report COVID-19 data that will allow test results to be sent in digitally rather than by fax.

The Health Center Real-time Information-sharing System — or HER-SYS, as abbreviated by the health ministry, which began using it in May — will allow all 31 test centers in Tokyo from Monday to send test results to the metropolitan government with computers and tablets.

Officials hope this will help the capital avoid faulty or delayed reporting moving forward, but whether it streamlines the process — or complicates it — depends on the speed and efficiency with which the metropolitan government’s myriad appendages make the transition.

“Relying on fax machines to communicate can make it difficult to compile and maintain large amounts of data,” a Tokyo official said Monday.

On the other hand, the official said, there is concern that transitioning to the new system in Tokyo, where the number of cases reported daily is the highest in Japan, could increase the burden on test centers, not reduce it.

On Tuesday, the National Center for Global Health and Medicine said that, while test centers can now communicate test results to the metropolitan government via computer or tablet, hospitals will still send results to test centers by fax.

Before Monday, this information was sent by fax from test centers to the metropolitan government’s Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health, which then compiled and released it to the public.

Since April, the metropolitan government has on multiple occasions revised, misreported or retroactively altered data related to the novel coronavirus after it had been released to the public.

Previously, the submission forms used by test centers to report a positive test result required staff members to fill out about 20 categories of information for each individual case.

The new system now has 279 categories, including basic information on a patient’s age, nationality, place of residence and symptoms, as well as where the individual is thought to have become infected.

Though the health ministry says it never demanded all entries be filled, Tokyo officials are concerned that having to choose which categories to fill out will further burden test centers already struggling to keep up with the country’s biggest outbreak.

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