Japan‘s health ministry on Tuesday approved the use of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coronavirus test using saliva, thought to be safer and easier to administer, to be used alongside the current tests which swab mucus from the back of the nostril.
“Both the burden on patients and sample-collecting institutions that need to protect staff from infections will be alleviated significantly,” health minister Katsunobu Kato told a press conference.
The test kits, which will be covered by national health insurance, will be used for testing patients within nine days of exhibiting symptoms.
The test is hoped to expose medical technicians carrying out the tests to less risk of infection as those being tested only need to provide a sample of their saliva to be tested.
The current PCR tests require the swabbing of the back of a patients nose, the irritation and discomfort of which can cause a patient to sneeze or cough, raising the chances of infecting the medical professional administering the test.
Those administering the saliva tests do not need to be wearing the same amount of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gowns and googles required by those carrying out the standard tests.
Japan has been accused of not carrying out enough PCR tests as compared to other countries, raising concerns about the accuracy of the health ministry’s and local authorities’ figures for those who have contracted the pneumonia-causing virus.
Kato said the tests using saliva will significantly reduce the burden on medical institutions as the test will be available at outpatient departments at designated hospitals and PCR testing centers.
The test, the ministry said, will also be used for patients and staff with coronavirus symptoms at medical institutions in bid to lessen the occurrences of in-hospital infections.