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SoftBank

SoftBank opens Japan coronavirus testing capacity

Tech group offers $19 saliva PCR test for companies and local governments

SoftBank's PCR testing facility in Chiba prefecture. (Photo by Shihoko Nakaoka)

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group on Thursday said it began operating a coronavirus testing facility in the outskirts of Tokyo targeting local governments and companies, the largest testing operation by the private sector in Japan.

The testing center is inside Kohnodai Hospital, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, in Chiba prefecture, east of the capital, and is run by a recently established SoftBank subsidiary, Coronavirus Inspection Center. SoftBank said it has a capacity of 4,000 tests per day and aims to ramp up to 10,000 tests per day by November.

The facility will conduct saliva-based polymerase chain reaction tests upon request by local governments and private companies. Testing kits will be sent to employees, who will collect saliva and send it to SoftBank's testing center.

The center can bring back results as quickly as in two hours, according to SoftBank. Each test, excluding shipping and packaging, costs 2,000 yen ($19).

SoftBank's initiative is only targeting asymptomatic people and preventing them from spreading the coronavirus. SoftBank said the facility was designed under the guidance of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, a research agency under the health ministry.

SoftBank previously conducted antibody tests on 44,000 group employees and business associates. The company is opening up its testing capacity to outside parties.

Masayoshi Son, SoftBank founder and chairman, has been a vocal advocate of widespread testing by the private sector as a way to deal with the spread of COVID-19.

Japan's entire coronavirus testing capacity is around 68,200 tests per day, according to the health ministry.

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