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Japan's daily COVID-19 cases top 10,000 for 1st time

Saitama health center head reprimanded over 'strict rules' for coronavirus tests

The Saitama City Hall is seen in Saitama's Urawa Ward on March 5, 2019. (Mainichi/Kaoru Yamadera)

TOKYO -- Saitama Mayor Hayato Shimizu apologized to residents on April 13 for a "misleading statement" by the head of a public health center in the city, north of Tokyo, who said polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were conducted under strict conditions to prevent hospitals from overflowing with novel coronavirus patients.

The Saitama Municipal Government had only tested 196 people as of April 12, whereas in the city of Chiba east of Tokyo, with a smaller population, 746 people had been tested -- nearly four times the figure.

Public health center head Michihiro Nishida expressed concern before a group of reporters on April 10 over patients with mild or no symptoms filling up hospital beds. "If we expand coronavirus testing, asymptomatic or mild cases would be found. Wanting to avoid that, we set strict rules for conducting tests." He pointed out that there was a need to secure hotels and other facilities where patients with mild symptoms could stay.

Mayor Shimizu denied Nishida's statement in a press conference on April 13, saying, "There hasn't been any case in which we've been stringent about testing. There may have been some discretion by doctors, but the tests were appropriately conducted." He has verbally reprimanded Nishida.

Shimizu also revealed that the city of Saitama will purchase one more PCR testing machine in addition to the three being used at the municipal health center, and emphasized that the city will enhance arrangements to carry out coronavirus tests.

(Japanese original by Asuka Ohira, Saitama Nishi Bureau)

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