Concerns are growing in Japan that the number of coronavirus cases could be higher than reported, with experts questioning the country’s approach to testing as infection rates continue to climb.
Japan has officially recorded 1,045 cases and 12 deaths from the virus, with 696 of those cases liked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama Bay last month.
Although the Japanese government says it has the capacity to carry out 3,800 tests a day, only 8,111 tests had been conducted as of March 4, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
Numbers are likely higher: Japan’s coronavirus figures are likely already much higher than reported, with the infection rate suspected to be just the “tip of the iceberg,” according to Masahiro Kami, the executive director of Japan’s Medical Governance Research Institute, a non-profit group.
Kami says for every one patient tested, there are many more who remain undiagnosed. But as most of these people are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms they don’t go to a clinic to get checked out.
Japan under pressure: The country has come under immense international scrutiny for its handling of the outbreak — specifically over its quarantine of the stricken Diamond Princess.
Critics have also accused Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of prioritizing the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and bilateral ties over national security, particularly as Japan did not shut down its borders during the early stages of the outbreak.