Japan will start a randomized mass PCR test as early as March, government sources said on Monday as part of efforts to confirm the extent of the novel coronavirus outbreak in city areas.
The sources said the central government aims to conduct up to several thousand PCR tests per day in Tokyo, Osaka and other metropolitan areas experiencing large numbers of cases, with the aim of using the information to develop effective virus prevention measures.
Unlike the local government test, which only targets people who show symptoms or have been in close contact with infected individuals, random people will be tested to determine the extent of the virus spread in a particular city.
The costs of the tests, which will be conducted by the private companies contracted out, will be fully covered by the central government. The tests are expected to take place at airports, as well as places where crowds congregate such as city centers, companies and universities.
In addition to on-site collection of mucus and saliva samples, samples collected with the test kits will also be accepted by mail. The results will be published to individuals but will also be used anonymously in statistical data.
The sources said the government also plans to gather information on Twitter and other social media to track changes in people’s attitudes toward the pandemic. The data, along with results of randomized PCR tests, will be analyzed using artificial intelligence, with the aim of detecting a possible increase in infection at an early stage.
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