HIROSHIMA -- The Hiroshima Prefectural Government has announced that it will start providing all residents and workers in the prefecture with free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the coronavirus from April 1.
While the prefecture has hitherto given free tests to medical and restaurant workers only, it is aiming to pin down early signs of an infection resurgence by expanding eligibility to all residents at the beginning of the new fiscal year, which starts in April and is usually accompanied by a lot of people moving in and out. To make it easy for people to take the tests, drugstores in the city of Hiroshima will provide test kits.
The announcement was made by Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki on March 26. The prefecture will apparently be the first in Japan to conduct coronavirus tests on a continual basis across its entire jurisdiction, regardless of people's occupations or where they live.
Test-takers need to make a reservation at one of five PCR Centers in the prefecture, and their saliva will be collected. With the cooperation of a pharmacists' association, 205 pharmacies in the prefectural capital will also provide test kits.
The five centers are expected to conduct a total of around 300 tests a day, and about 2,000 people a week are expected to take tests with the kits provided by drugstores.
The cost of the drugstore tests will be covered by the 108 million yen (about $990,000) in funds for measures against the coronavirus set aside in the prefectural government's initial fiscal 2021 budget.
"It's easy to take the test. It's just like going to a convenience store, without being tied to a date and time. We'd like to urge young people to take this opportunity to get tested," said Gov. Yuzaki.
Test reservations can be made by phone at 050-1741-6373 (in Japanese).
(Japanese original by Misa Koyama, Hiroshima Bureau)