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Japan to test 15,000 people for coronavirus antibodies by end of year

In this June 1, 2020 photo, an antibody test for the new coronavirus is demonstrated in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will test around 15,000 people for novel coronavirus antibodies by the end of the year to get a better grasp of the infection situation amid a nationwide resurgence in new cases, the health minister said Friday.

    The testing, the second of its kind since June, will take place in Tokyo, Osaka and three other prefectures, the minister, Norihisa Tamura, told a press conference.

    The results will help health officials understand more accurately to what extent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has spread in Japan as antibodies to the virus would be present even in those who are asymptomatic.

    In addition to Tokyo, Osaka and Miyagi, which were included in the first round of antibody testing in June, the ministry said testing will also be carried out in Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures.

    Japan has been seeing record numbers of infections in recent days, with several major cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, calling on nightlife establishments to shorten their operating hours to prevent the virus's spread.

    Japan tested around 8,000 people in June for coronavirus antibodies, and the results showed a 0.10 percent infection rate in Tokyo. The positivity rates for Osaka and Miyagi in the country's west and northeast were 0.17 percent and 0.03 percent, respectively.

    Health experts said the outcome showed a very limited spread of the virus as the three regions' positivity rates were much lower than some 20 percent detected in New York and 5 percent in Spain.

    They concluded that the first wave of infection was "fairly contained" in Japan after analyzing the test results.

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