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Japan confirmed 3,743 coronavirus cases on Thursday, marking the highest daily tally for a second straight day. Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures continued to report record numbers of infections, as did Aichi, Gifu and Kyoto.

As COVID-19 cases surge, many Tokyoites are seeking out polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests before they head back to their hometowns for the New Year’s break, and private institutions offering cheap tests in the capital are packed, reports Tomohiro Osaki. However, the health ministry is warning that such unofficial testing comes with pitfalls, such as the possibility of false results. They are also not obliged to report positive results to municipalities.

If that doesn’t dissuade you from giving these facilities a try, Louise George Kittaka offers readers the lowdown on how to get tested. But, she writes, if you are really in a rush, regular clinics are still your best option, though certainly not your cheapest.

People form a line Wednesday in front of a private testing center that offers low-cost PCR testing for COVID-19 in the Shimbashi district of Tokyo. | TOMOHIRO OSAKI
People form a line Wednesday in front of a private testing center that offers low-cost PCR testing for COVID-19 in the Shimbashi district of Tokyo. | TOMOHIRO OSAKI

With deals to secure more vaccines than it needs and legislation to distribute it for free, Japan may seem to have its inoculation plans sorted. Yet a checkered past with vaccines and a cautious approval process have some concerned over how quickly the country can return to normal, Bloomberg reports. Japan has one of the lowest rates of vaccine confidence in the world, according to a Lancet study, and 36% in a recent poll said they didn’t want to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

Waseda University professor Mikihito Tanaka tells Bloomberg that media coverage will be key to determining how many people get vaccinated. Takeda Pharmaceutical chief Christophe Weber, meanwhile, says firms like his must be “very transparent and extremely educative” to ensure mass take-up. After all, as health minister Norihisa Tamura said last week, “The final decision to receive the vaccine or not will be made by the people.”

Thursday’s (and Wednesday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (20 or over): Tokyo 888 (748), Kanagawa 495 (346), Osaka 289 (312), Aichi 270 (239), Saitama 251 (230), Chiba 234 (142), Hyogo 152 (170), Fukuoka 149 (156), Hokkaido 123 (114), Kyoto 107 (88), Hiroshima 98 (123), Gifu 56 (56), Miyagi 48 (51), Okinawa 48 (37), Gunma 43 (28), Ibaraki 39 (19), Shizuoka 38 (35), Nagasaki 35 (12), Nara 34 (36), Kumamoto 31 (30), Fukushima 30 (34), Kagawa 27 (20), Okayama 27 (35), Tochigi 24 (33). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

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