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Yohei Sasakawa
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The Nippon Foundation Surpasses 2 Million Mark in Free COVID-19 PCR Testing for Caregivers in Tokyo Area [2021/10/29]
The Nippon Foundation has undertaken a project to offer caregivers and other essential workers at elderly nursing homes in Tokyo and the three nearby prefectures free and regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the novel coronavirus. This was part of our campaign to help the nation combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of October 16, the number of PCR tests administered on these caregivers reached 2,073,737, surpassing the 2 million mark for the first time since the project was launched in late February. Of the total, 374 persons tested positive.

The foundation’s PCR testing program was aimed at identifying positive COVID-19 cases with mild or no symptoms among nursing home staff and thus preventing them from unknowingly transmitting the coronavirus to the elderly in their care who are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill or dying if they become infected.

The Nippon Foundation has also built a makeshift facility with 150 beds in Odaiba on Tokyo Bay to accommodate coronavirus patients with moderate or no symptoms, including those with pets.

The number of patients who stayed at the facility peaked at 52 on August 31 and has since fallen to three as of October 16. This was in step with the downward trend in new cases reported by the Tokyo metropolitan government, with the total falling dramatically from a daily record of 5,773 for the capital on August 13 to well under 100 since early October.

The Japanese media seems to have focused on the number of total COVID-19 cases and the strain on hospitals. But the importance of PCR tests has taken a backseat in their coverage even though I believe testing is considered to be one of the most effective ways to avoid transmission of the disease along with the inoculation campaign.

In contrast to the government’s vaccination drive, under which people get their shots for free, a PCR test can sometimes cost as much as 15,000 yen (about $132) a time.

Getting people to understand the importance of PCR tests would help ease their anxiety about the pandemic as well as encourage them to stay home when cases surge. I am a layman as far as medicine is concerned, but I do believe PCR testing should be administered for nothing.

Besides, the local authorities should also reveal the number of PCR tests conducted in addition to the number of those who test positive. This would give us a clearer picture of the overall COVID-19 infection rate and more time to prepare for the worst.

It is fortunate, however, that thanks to the strenuous efforts by the central and local governments, medical professionals and others, we are making progress in mitigating the effects of the coronavirus. The government has lifted COVID-19 state of emergency restrictions in all prefectures for the first time in six months.

On October 26, the government reported that 70.1% of the country’s population of 125 million has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, ranking third among the Group of Seven nations after an initially slow vaccine rollout.

But danger past, God forgotten. There are still so many unknowns about the disease. Some experts predict that Japan might be hit by a sixth wave of COVID-19 infections with or without new highly transmissible variants of coronavirus.

The Nippon Foundation, working from the motto of “providing is preventing,” will continue to undertake various initiatives to help the nation battle the virus. I sincerely hope the government, medical professionals and other stakeholders as well as ordinary citizens will deal with the pandemic in the same spirit, basing their response on scientific evidence and a thorough analysis of the situation.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:12 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)