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Certified antigen self-test kits available online
Japan's health ministry has approved the online sale of self-test coronavirus antigen kits via pharmacy shopping sites. The kits are restricted to those certified by the ministry for accuracy.
The ministry aims to increase opportunities for individuals to get tested and prevent the spread of the virus. The latest surge in infections has flooded medical institutions with patients and made it difficult for people to get tested. It is hoped that online test kit sales can help. It also anticipates growing need for proof of a negative test to enable economic and social activities to recover.
Mandatory guidance from pharmacists
Since late last year, physical sales of certified self-test kits at pharmacies have been allowed as a special measure — on condition customers receive mandatory explanations and instructions from pharmacists, including what to do if the result is positive.
The same condition applies to online sales, so customers must fill out a questionnaire because certified self-test kits are classified as "for medical purposes" under law.
One nationwide pharmacy chain has revised its website to allow customers to read and acknowledge that they understand the proper use of the tests, including how to register at local centers if a result is positive, and how to contact medical institutions.
To complete a sale, pharmacists must check customers' information during business hours. They will then contact the purchasers by email, video call, or other means to confirm their understanding before shipping the product.
Makers need approval to sell online
Manufacturers who want to supply kits for online sales are required to obtain government approval. So far there are four makers who have obtained the necessary consent.
Warning on uncertified test kits
Officials are warning people against using uncertified antigen tests that are also available online and at pharmacies as they can be inaccurate. Certified tests are classified as for medical purposes. Many of the uncertified tests on the market are marked for research purposes.
Caution is needed even for the certified antigen test kits. They are more convenient – producing a result in 15 minutes or so, compared to PCR testing that generally takes about a day – but are said to be less reliable.
When the body of an infected person contains only small amounts of coronavirus, a test may return a false negative. In the event of a negative test despite the presence of symptoms, people are advised to contact a medical institution.
Not a diagnosis
The test kits do not provide a diagnosis and a result cannot be used as an official certificate to show someone has tested negative.
The information above is accurate as of September 12, 2022.