TOKYO -- Antigen test kits to check simultaneously for both the coronavirus and seasonal flu are expected to hit store shelves in Japan as the health ministry has approved guidelines to sell the products at pharmacies and online.
The ministry's working group on medical devices and in-vitro diagnostics approved the guidelines on Nov. 28. Manufacturers can put their test kits on the market if they apply to the central government and are approved.
The Japanese government projects a total of up to 750,000 people will be infected a day amid a double coronavirus and flu outbreak. It intends to create conditions for sick people to test themselves at home by making test kits easily available. By doing so, the government aims to ease the burden on fever outpatient clinics and other medical institutions faced with sorting out COVID-19 and flu patients.
Currently, 12 dual test products manufactured by 10 companies have been approved, and they have 39 million test kits in stock. Of those, five products by four makers have passed both the self-nasal specimen collection test and the performance test. It is expected that the numbers of kits to reach market will be limited because some firms are not planning to apply to sell their products at pharmacies or online.
The health ministry's expert coronavirus advisory board had also discussed the dual test kits for home use on Nov. 22. While some members pointed out that users need to be careful about the tests' sensitivity to flu and the timing to judge positive results, no one voiced serious opposition.
(Japanese original by Takuya Murata, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)