The Japanese Ministry of Health is said to green-light a local antigen maker, Fujirebio, to boost the number of available diagnostic tests. It would be the nation's first antigen kit for the Coronavirus. Public insurance programs will cover the kit costs.
Fujirebio will start producing 200,000 tests per week. The number could go up if needed. The antigen kits work by detecting virus proteins from mucus. It is more practical than regular tests because the result is showed immediately. The downside is that the kit can show false negatives at a higher rate than the regular checks. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are very accurate when delivering the result, but up until now, only 9,000 people per day were tested. The government’s target was 20,000 daily.
The antigen tests will be used in hospitals, in emergency rooms, and probably in airports as the containment measures ease, and also in infection clusters.
The test can be adopted as a screening test: if positive when tested with the antigen the person will be diagnosed as infected. If the person is negative but has symptoms, PCR tests will be conducted.
Fujirebio is not the only one producing the kits. Denka, another local manufacturer, is working on developing a similar kit. Companies are driven by the health ministry's desire to have as many tests as possible available. From the initial goal of 20,000 daily, the number should increase to 400,000 people a week. By doing this, the ministry hopes to determine the approximate number of infections in the country, because at the moment, it’s difficult to trace the virus, as various hospital facilities collapsed.
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Sources: reuters.com, investing.com, asia.nikkei.com