Govt to increase free test sites, delay raising cap on overseas visitors

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A man visits a free testing site in Osaka in April.

The government, looking to take action against the novel coronavirus heading into the summer holiday travel season, will set up or expand temporary free testing sites at about 100 locations across the country, such as major train stations and airports.

As the number of positive cases quickly rises nationwide, the government’s aim is to prevent further spread by encouraging people to be tested for infection before taking a trip to their hometowns or going away on vacation.

The daily tally of people newly testing positive in the country exceeded 70,000 on Tuesday, but the government is not yet considering measures to limit personal actions, such as asking people to refrain from crossing prefectural borders.

“At present, we are not thinking of imposing applying quasi-emergency measures or any other behavioral restrictions,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Instead, the government’s focus will be on increasing the free testing sites and calling on people to proactively get tested. The setting up or expansion of 100 locations will be on a similar scale to that done prior to the Golden Week holidays in May.

“With people returning to their hometowns and other reasons, there will be more opportunities for people to gather together,” said a government source. “The important thing is to prevent the spread of infection to the elderly, who are more susceptible to develop serious symptoms.”

As for international arrivals, the government raised the limit of daily entries from 10,000 to 20,000 on June 1, and was considering a further increase to 30,000 before the end of July. But it opted not to do so on the grounds that it would be difficult to gain public understanding with infections surging again.

The government is also considering allowing medical workers and nursing care workers under the age of 60 to receive a fourth round of vaccinations. Currently, the fourth shot is limited to the elderly and certain others.

The matter will be discussed at a meeting of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry pandemic task force as early as next week.