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Gov't testing method for coronavirus leaves public confused

8 Comments

The numbers are down. Relief is in the air. Is the worst over?

Coronavirus at its peak was infecting 2,500 a day in Greater Tokyo alone in January. Now the daily figure hovers between 200-300. Hope surges. Normal life beckons – maybe not treacherously.

Josei Seven (March 18) has no quarrel with optimism, but it raises a question about the government’s shift from individual PCR testing to “pool” testing – testing five at a time instead of one, and examining individuals only if the pool test yields a positive. The question is not specifically about the medical soundness of the shift – though that of course is the ultimate issue – but about the health ministry’s failure to offer the public a full and clear explanation.

“Pool  testing is not as not as accurate as individual testing but it can be effective,” says Masahiro Kami, head of the non-profit Medical Governance Research Institute. “To  keep the virus under control we need more testing. Pool testing makes that possible, especially in overpopulated and underpopulated areas where medical facilities, tend to be short-staffed."

Pool testing, Josei Seven explains, was first developed in Wuhan, the Chinese city that emerged as the global pandemic’s incubator in late 2019. China since then has earned international recognition for remarkable success in stifling the virus. Taking note, Japan’s health ministry introduced pool testing – “sneaking” into the policy initiative, the weekly claims, a little noticed directive to local governments that the numerical standards determining a positive or negative test result be lowered.

The numerical standards relate to what’s known as the CT severity index, a measure of lung inflammation. The higher the standard, the more patients will test positive. Lower the index, and testees who formerly would have tested positive will test negative. In lowering the standard, Japan in effect lowers the number of those deemed infected.

Is something dodgy going on? Not necessarily. Not necessarily not. How is the non-expert to decide? By asking experts. And when experts disagree? What then? Gut feeling? Is that reliable? No. So?

First, a fact: Japan’s previous standards were high, globally speaking, Japan’s CT 40-45 corresponding roughly to Taiwan’s 35 and China’s 37. It’s this high standard that yields Japan’s tabulation of 430,000 coronavirus victims. Among them are those who tested positive despite displaying no symptoms. Lower standards might have dismissed them as negative.

The higher standard, moreover, Josei Seven hears from a health ministry spokesperson, was set not by the government but, informally, by the private Japan National Institute of Infectious Diseases. “This is tantamount to saying,” the spokesperson explains, "‘Let private industry set the standards’” – meaning the pharmaceutical industry and medical instrument makers, with vested interests of their own.

The magazine lets an unnamed “medical journalist” voice the doubts that will naturally occur to the lay mind: Is the government merely eager to keep the numbers down so the Olympics can proceed, so the Go To Eat and Travel campaigns can resume, so the economy can get back on track as soon as possible, possibly too soon?

The article ends inconclusively. “In my opinion,” says Kami of the Medical Governance Research Institute, “the decision was based on sound considerations. Still,” he adds, “if the CT index is changed, the public is entitled to a clear explanation of why that change occurred. Otherwise, as is only natural, doubts will remain.”

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

8 Comments
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Or alternatively, just don't test at all.

This will ensure the end of the pandemic. Bring on the Olympics, re-start Go To Trouble, etc, etc.

End it.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

It seems Josei Seven was duped into publishing some joke reporting from someone that wanted to make the magazine look bad. The article makes no sense and gets confused and contradict itself all around.

For example it confuses between the Ct (cycle threshold) of PCR testing with the CT (computed tomography) severity index, for some reason the author thinks every suspected case is subjected to a tomography to see if its infected or not, that makes no sense. It also misrepresent the meaning of Ct and assume increasing or decreasing the value can only mean also increasing or decreasing the sensitivity and specificity, which is not true and has been debunked.

Then it says the Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases is private, which is nonsense again, the institute belongs to the the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Institute_of_InfectiousDiseases(Japan)

Which obviously means it is part of the government (people working there are considered civil servants), and its role is precisely to provide scientific basis for national policies (that the government may or not listen to). This institute is also the opponent against the pharmaceutical goods and medical appliances industry, testing and keeping surveillance so the government can punish any kind of wrong doing.

Maybe someone wanted to be sarcastic and write a misleading and confusing article to reflect how the population can easily be mislead and confused?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Tora- that may be sarcasm, but it may be the best advice yet. It would get rid of the confusion and politics.

The biggest stat, though, is number of people dying- both overall and from COVID. In Japan, overall deaths went DOWN last year, as there are relatively few COVID deaths. In the U.S. only 6% of COVID deaths are FROM COVID, meaning 94% died from other causes, and COVID may or may not have played a part.

And the mortuary owners had such high hopes at this time last year...

So much for the catastrophic pandemic.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

“Pool  testing is not as not as accurate as individual testing but it can be effective,”

"Not as not as accurate"? Yeah, its a translation from Japanese and is maybe a typo, or is spot on political doublespeak to avoid responsibility.

I somehow actually think it's the latter.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Confusion has always been in plans where money is to be made by duping the population, - example mobile telephone charges. Or gaining power, think of T in USA or Brexit

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

the decision was based on sound considerations

Who wouldn’t agree more than I do? lol

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Some countries that aren't open and transparent to begin with can just not test and then the virus does not exist there. It is pretty easy. Transparent democracies with freedom of speech don't have that option.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The numbers are down

What numbers? The number of testing?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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