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Japan to appoint local hospitals as primary consultation windows for individuals with fevers

The Central Government Building No. 5, which accommodates the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, is seen in this file photo taken in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced on Sept. 4 that it will make changes in its method of providing consultations and checkups for individuals with fevers and other symptoms, in preparation for the approaching influenza season that may coincide with the spread of the novel coronavirus.

    The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry issued a notice informing local authorities to arrange a system by the end of October where patients who develop fevers can first consult with family doctors and other local medical institutions on the phone.

    Patients with fevers currently call consultation windows set up at public health centers and other places. Such individuals undergo examinations after being referred to medical institutions that can conduct tests for the novel coronavirus. However, it is difficult to distinguish influenza patients from COVID-19 patients just by their symptoms. The system change aims to avoid a concentration of patients at designated windows, while offering necessary tests and examinations.

    Under the new system, those who have developed a fever initially contact local clinics or family doctors through phone calls, and undergo tests and examinations if possible. When such local medics cannot respond to cases, they will provide information on medical institutions that can. Those who are unsure of what to do can make inquiries by calling a consultation window which will replace the current public consultation windows.

    According to the health ministry, the implementation of the new system will make it easier to receive examinations at local medical institutions as well as to take polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that use saliva samples, which will be pushed to become more widespread. Prefectural governments will reveal the names and open hours of medical institutions capable of offering examinations and tests if they can reach an agreement with medical associations and other organizations.

    (Japanese original by Takuya Murata, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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