Japanese industrial conglomerates Hitachi Ltd and Toshiba Corp will join with Miraca Holdings to increase production of antigen-based coronavirus tests, aiding in the country’s effort to screen more people for the corona Virus.
The alliance will double production of Miraca subsidiary Fujirebio’s testing kits, which received government approval in May, to 400,000 a week, the three companies said in a joint statement on Friday.
A new plant to make the kits will be established in Hokkaido prefecture, Japan’s northern island, and will start operations by December.
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Antigen tests scan for proteins found on or inside a virus, and typically test a sample taken from the nasal cavity using swabs. The tests can detect the virus quickly but produce false negatives at a higher rate than the currently dominant polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
The kit of reagent maker Fujirebio can identify infections in about 30 minutes.Although its results are less accurate than those of currently dominant PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests, the kit is expected to work more quickly.
Japan is far behind many industrialised nations in testing for the virus, which critics say obscures the true scale of infection.
In a rare partnership, Hitachi will provide engineering know-how, while Toshiba will offer facilities. Fujirebio currently produces test kits at a plant in southern Japan.
The coronavirus has infected more than 6.6 million people and killed about 391,000 around the world. Japan has had about 17,000 infections and 910 known deaths to date.