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Japan health panel suggests testing children for COVID be limited to symptomatic cases

A government building housing the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is seen in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- An expert panel advising Japan's health ministry on coronavirus countermeasures stated on June 1 that testing for COVID-19 in children should be limited to those with symptoms.

    According to pediatricians and other experts on the advisory board, increasing numbers of schools, day care centers and parents' workplaces are demanding that children be tested for little cause. The panel warned that this trend is putting a strain on pediatric care.

    The panel recommended that, as there is no antiviral medicine effective against the coronavirus available to healthy children, and the omicron variant is less likely to cause severe illness, "we should switch to a realistic approach and measures without strictly identifying those in close contact."

    In the meantime, the experts pointed out that children are prone to sudden changes in condition due to illnesses, and not only for COVID-19. They therefore advised that whether to hospitalize children should be left up to doctors, not to public health centers or other administrative agencies. Furthermore, the number of testing and medical facilities that can handle pediatric COVID-19 cases should be increased.

    In addition, the panel noted that school events are "extremely important" for children's growth and development. They emphasized that events should be held "as much as possible after taking measures against infection," because "lost time and experience cannot be regained later, and missing them will affect children for the rest of their lives."

    (Japanese original by Ai Yokota, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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