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TOKYO -- After Japan's downgrading of COVID-19 to a "Class 5" disease on par with influenza on May 8, people may wonder where they can go for treatment if they have a fever or other symptoms of the disease.

Following the reclassification of COVID-19 under the infectious disease control law, people will in principle be allowed to choose medical institutions themselves, in the same way as for seasonal flu. It will no longer be necessary to make an appointment at an outpatient fever clinic designated by local governments, as people have been required to do over the past few years.

In order to increase the number of institutions that will accept patients, the national government will make it known that patients merely being "infected" or "suspected to be infected" with the coronavirus is not a valid reason for refusing medical examinations.

As of February this year, approximately 42,000 medical institutions nationwide had accepted people with COVID-19. This number is expected to increase to 44,000 from May 8, and the government has indicated that it plans to increase the number of facilities accepting COVID-19 patients to about 64,000 in the future.

However, the number of accepting institutions may not increase immediately, since the decision on whether or not to provide medical treatment is left to each facility, partly due to preparations they must undertake. Therefore, for the time being, prefectural governments will continue to publicize the names and other information of medical institutions that are able to accept COVID-19 patients.

If coronavirus infections spread again, people may rush to health care facilities to get tested, overcrowding outpatient clinics. The government accordingly recommends that those who are at low risk of developing severe symptoms of the disease self-test and recuperate at home. However, since the condition of patients can change suddenly, the government is urging people to contact a medical institution if they have a fever or difficulty breathing.

(Japanese original by Ryo Watanabe, Lifestyle, Science & Environment News Department)

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