Japan's health ministry said Thursday those at low risk of developing serious coronavirus symptoms will be encouraged to use at-home test kits and online medical services this winter, when COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are expected to spread simultaneously.
The measures, which assume a peak of 750,000 cases per day, seek to lessen the burden on hospitals and prioritize medical care for the elderly amid warnings of another surge of viruses during the upcoming colder months.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed at a government review meeting involving health ministry officials the need for "preemptive preparations," calling on the Japan Medical Association and other organizations to cooperate in the rollout of vaccines and to improve the health care system.
The government anticipates that COVID-19 and flu infections will peak at 450,000 cases and 300,000 cases per day, respectively.
While the elderly and others at high risk of developing severe symptoms will be encouraged to visit medical institutions, others from low-risk groups who test negative for COVID-19 at home will be asked to use online medical services or see their family doctor.
Self-administered flu medication will also be prescribed as necessary.
Should they test positive for COVID-19, they will be required to contact their local health center and isolate at home.
The government began considering measures to prevent outpatient fever clinics from becoming overwhelmed after a health ministry expert panel released a report on Oct. 5 stating there is an "extremely high possibility" of both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu spreading in the six months to March.