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Experts in Japan withdraw proposal to forego COVID tests for young people

A group of experts who advise the government on its pandemic response had planned to propose foregoing COVID-19 tests for young people, but quickly backed away from the plan.

The experts posted their proposals, which did not include the idea of foregoing tests for young people, on the health ministry’s website Friday.

The group’s initial proposal said that young people who may have been infected with the coronavirus should be diagnosed based solely on their clinical symptoms, rather than via COVID-19 tests.

The group drew up the original proposal in a bid to prevent Japan’s medical system and COVID-19 testing capacity from becoming strained. The draft proposal was presented at a meeting of experts at the health ministry on Thursday, sources said.

Asked about the draft proposal, health minister Shigeyuki Goto said at a news conference earlier in the day that at this point, all people who are feeling ill must see a doctor and be tested.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike also said at a separate news conference that since COVID-19 is an infectious disease, those who are worried they might have been infected are urged to take the test for themselves and for the society.

The omicron variant has been found to be far more transmissible than the highly contagious delta variant, but omicron also has a lower rate of causing serious illness.

Many young people without underlying conditions have developed only mild symptoms — if they have any symptoms at all — after being infected with the omicron variant, and they are often able to recover without being admitted to hospital.

But the medical system may become strained if the omicron variant rages further and the number of young people taking COVID-19 tests surges.

This could lead to older people — at higher risk of developing severe symptoms — being unable to receive medical care. Treatment for non-COVID-19 patients could be affected, too.

At Thursday’s meeting, officials said the medical capacity to deal with COVID-19 patients with mild and moderate symptoms may come under strain quickly if infections continue to spread rapidly among young people.

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