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COVID-19 puts Japan's public health foot soldiers to test

Country's 35,000 specialists handled first wave but fret over what may come

A health care worker conducts a PCR test at Narita Airport near Tokyo. (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara)

TOKYO -- As the number of COVID-19 cases surges in Japan, the country's roughly 470 public health centers are under strain once again as they struggle with growing demand for testing, tracing and monitoring of the coronavirus.

"The volume of new patients now is far higher than that of the first wave," said Masahiro Yamada, head of the Chuwa Public Health Center, located in a commuter town southeast of Osaka. There are enough beds for confirmed COVID-19 patients. But for suspected cases, "allocating medical services and drive-thru PCR testing is very hard," Yamada said.

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