• Underestimation of COVID-19 cases in Japan: an analysis of RT-PCR testing for COVID-19 among 47 prefectures in Japan

      Sawano, Toyoaki; Kotera, Yasuhiro; Ozaki, Akihiko; Murayama, Anju; Tanimoto, Tetsuya; Sah, Ranjit; Wang, Jiwei; Fukushima Medical University, Japan; University of Derby; Tohoku University, Japan; et al. (Oxford University Press, 2020-06-19)
      Under the unique Japanese policy to restrict reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, a nationwide number of its confirmed cases and mortality remains to be low. Yet the information is lacking on geographical differences of these measures and their associated factors. Evaluation of prefecture-based geographical differences and associated predictors for the incidence and number of RT-PCR tests for COVID-19. Cross-sectional study using regression and correlation analysis. We retrieved domestic laboratory-confirmed cases, deaths, and the number of RT-PCR testing for COVID-19 from January 15 to April 6, 2020 in 47 prefectures in Japan, using publicly-available data by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. We did descriptive analyses of these three measures and identified significant predictors for the incidence and RT-PCR testing through multiple regression analyses and correlates with the number of deaths through correlation analysis. The median prefectural-level incidence and number of RT-PCR testing per 100,000 population were 1.14 and 38.6, respectively. Multiple regression analyses revealed that significant predictors for the incidence were prefectural-level population (p < 0.001) and the number of RT-PCR testing (p = 0.03); and those for RT-PCR testing were the incidence (p = 0.025), available beds (p = 0.045) and cluster infections (p = 0.034). Considering bidirectional association between the incidence and RT-PCR testing, there may have been an underdiagnosed population for the infection. The restraint policy for RT-PCR testing should be revisited to meet the increasing demand under the COVID-19 epidemic.