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The government will consider a system to make it easier for people with no COVID-19 symptoms to undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the coronavirus, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura has said.

In a recent interview, Nishimura, who is in charge of the country’s coronavirus response, said the government is working on ways to let these people be tested “as smoothly and inexpensively as possible.”

“Some healthy people want to undergo PCR tests to ease their worries over infection. Also, members of theatrical groups and professional sports teams are getting tested regularly as a coronavirus outbreak could pose a grave threat to their businesses,” the minister said.

The national health insurance system currently does not cover PCR tests for people who are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

Nishimura also said after Japan experienced the second wave of COVID-19 infections, he learned through analyses of cluster infections that the risk of catching the virus at eateries is “quite low” if each establishment takes appropriate preventive measures.

The government will consider a system to make it easier for people with no COVID-19 symptoms to take PCR tests, says Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of the nation's coronavirus response. | KYODO
The government will consider a system to make it easier for people with no COVID-19 symptoms to take PCR tests, says Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of the nation’s coronavirus response. | KYODO

“We can reduce the risks of infection by gathering only in small groups and by sitting diagonally across the table,” he said. “We’ve also found that there is no link between the number of visitors to shops or amusement facilities and the number of infection cases.”

In a bid to prevent another wave of infections, Nishimura also stressed the importance of tightening infection controls in entertainment districts.

He said it had come to light that a variant of the virus brought from Europe took root in Tokyo’s Shinjuku entertainment district and spread nationwide to cause the second wave of infections in July and August.

Even when infections spread from entertainment districts, it is possible to contain the outbreak by conducting PCR tests extensively, the minister said.

“After that, we may consider the option to request establishments of certain industries to shut down or shorten their operating hours on a localized basis for a limited period of time,” Nishimura added.

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