May 8, 2020 / 3:24 PM / 24 days ago

Japan lowers bar to coronavirus testing, drops temperature guideline

A man wearing a protective face mask uses his mobile phone in Akihabara district, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, May 8, 2020.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Japanese Health Ministry said on Friday it now wants people experiencing difficulty breathing or those with a fever to seek advice on whether they may have been infected with the new coronavirus, easing public access to testing.

Government guidelines had previously specified that those who had had a fever of 37.5 Celsius (99.5 Fahrenheit) or more for four consecutive days should seek advice at local public health centres, which are tasked with conducting screening ahead of administering tests for the virus. It has now dropped its temperature-related criteria.

Critics say the low rate of testing in Japan has made it difficult to trace the spread of the new coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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