Japan to offer free test kits to prevent clusters

Japan's health ministry will provide about 8 million antigen test kits for free to elderly facilities and medical institutions at risk of coronavirus infection clusters.

As of Monday, the ministry had confirmed more than 2,600 cases nationwide in which two or more people at a single facility had tested positive.

Some staff members have spread the virus by reporting to work without being tested, even if they had a fever or other symptoms.

The kits collect a sample from the back of the nose by using swabs. The result is available in about 30 minutes, and it's said to be as accurate as PCR tests if that person is showing symptoms.

The test kits will be used in principle for people with symptoms, but those who've had contact with someone who has tested positive at a facility are also eligible.

The kits will be delivered to hospitals, clinics with inpatients, and facilities with elderly residents, such as special nursing care homes. People being cared for at home can also get the kits with permission from their prefectural government.

The health ministry plans to secure the test kits by the end of this month and start distributing them as soon as possible.