• Jiji


Facilities providing free COVID-19 PCR tests in Tokyo have been bustling with people wanting to feel safe before returning to their hometowns for the year-end and New Year's holidays.

This comes in response to the discovery of community-acquired cases of the omicron variant in some parts of Japan.

On Tuesday, the last day of work for the year for many people in Japan, there was a constant stream of people at a testing facility in the capital's Shinjuku Ward as users were able to take their PCR tests without having to secure reservations.

Masako Miyazaki, 54, a corporate employee, said that she will return home to Nagoya to visit her mother in her 80s, who collapsed in October this year.

"As I only have a short amount of time left (with her), I decided to go back home without hesitation," Miyazaki said.

Stressing that she is scared of spreading the omicron variant to her mother while showing no COVID-19 symptoms, Miyazaki said, "I came here today to take the (PCR) test as it is free."

A 30-year-old nurse who visited a different testing facility in Shinjuku said that while she was on the fence, she ultimately decided to go back home to the central prefecture of Nagano for the first time in two years.

She said that she has come to take the test to resolve any concerns.

On free tests, she said, "I think it's nice that many people would be able to take the tests."

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government increased the number of such facilities to around 180 on Monday.

Koji Kagoshima, 53, who took a PCR test at a facility in Minato Ward, is planning to see his parents in Niigata Prefecture, central Japan, for the first time in two years.

Kagoshima said he wants to see them while they were still alive, adding that he decided to take the test as he is worried about the possibility of his parents being infected with the virus due to their advanced age.

A 40-year-old woman who will return to her hometown in the northeastern region of Tohoku said that residents living in urban and rural areas have a very different view on the coronavirus.

"People from Tokyo aren't welcomed (by those in the rural areas)," she said. "I'd like to go back if I test negative."

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