Japan tests show 11 dead were infected with coronavirus, media reports

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A man wears a face mask in a bus stop in front of the Shinagawa station during the rush hour after the government expanded a state of emergency to include the entire country following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, April 20, 2020

Japanese police have reported that 11 people whose deaths were deemed to be unnatural in the past month subsequently tested positive for the new coronavirus, media said on Tuesday.

Japan, with more than 260 virus-related deaths according to public broadcaster NHK, has avoided the kind of explosive outbreak that has plagued the United States and many European nations.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced concern on Tuesday about Japan’s rising number of confirmed cases, while saying they fell short of a large-scale community outbreak.

Some of the 11 deaths recorded in the month to mid-April involved people who died at home and one found lying in the street, the Nikkei business daily and other media said, citing the National Police Agency.

Six were in Tokyo, the capital, where virus cases have topped 3,000, from a nationwide tally of 11,157.

Contacted by Reuters, the National Police Agency said it could not confirm the facts before receiving questions by fax.

One case involved a man in his 60s found on a street in eastern Tokyo and taken to hospital, the Nikkei said, adding that a PCR test after his death from symptoms of pneumonia confirmed he had been infected.

The government has said it follows World Health Organization guidelines for virus testing, with all suspicious pneumonia deaths tested for the respiratory disease caused by the virus.

Against the backdrop of questions whether Japan is testing sufficiently, Rakuten Inc has started selling testing kits for companies and organizations.

The kit, developed by Genesis Healthcare, an affiliate of the e-commerce giant, will be priced at 14,900 yen ($138) for those who do not meet the specific symptoms in Tokyo and four neighboring prefectures, the company said on Monday.

Japan still faces a shortage of masks, even though the government has started distributing two masks free to each household.

It has also drafted prisoners to make masks, with the justice ministry saying about 100 prisoners in seven facilities have turned them out since March, following orders from private firms, with monthly output capacity of 66,000.

Ground crews of airline ANA Holdings Inc have been making faceguards from plastic folders for workers at a boarding gate for international flights, the Asahi newspaper said.