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SoftBank

SoftBank brings coronavirus test service to individuals in Japan

App-based business signals technology investor's broader medical ambitions

SoftBank's PCR testing facility in Chiba Prefecture. With another facility in Hokkaido, the company can process around 13,000 tests per day. (Photo by Shihoko Nakaoka)

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group on Wednesday made its coronavirus testing service available to individuals in Japan via an app offered by its cellphone service provider, a move that shows the investor's broader ambitions in the health care technology business.

The group last year began offering saliva-based polymerase chain reaction testing services for companies and local governments, using kits from Japan's Takara Bio and testing facilities in Chiba Prefecture, next to Tokyo, and Hokkaido. The facilities can process 13,000 tests per day, considered the private sector's largest coronavirus testing capacity in Japan.

SoftBank said in a news release that by expanding the service to individuals, it wants to "make PCR testing more affordable and easier for more people." A kit for one person costs 5,500 yen ($52), which includes shipping and testing fees. Orders are being accepted through May.

The service initially will be limited to six prefectures, including Tokyo.

Individuals are required to book a testing date on Helpo, a smartphone app launched in July by SoftBank's mobile subsidiary SoftBank Corp.

Results will be made available through the app. If a result is a "suspected positive," information on hospitals that can give an official diagnosis will be provided. After receiving their results, users can still consult with doctors and nurses through a chat function.

SoftBank has been offering the app to corporates, but this is the first time for it to offer tests to individuals. For those who purchase the testing service, the app's services will be offered for free until June.

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