(Bloomberg) -- A Covid test may not be needed to be counted as infected in Japan, as an omicron surge quickly overtakes the country’s health-care resources and forces the government to find workarounds.

People who have close contact with a Covid patient and later became symptomatic can be considered infected, according to a statement on the government’s website. Mild cases in vaccinated people under age 40 who don’t have underlying conditions and aren’t at high risk can test at home to confirm an infection. They can be referred to follow-up centers for monitoring until they recover, according to the statement.

The speed of the latest outbreak is creating a shortage of tests and spurring a change in how the virus is handled in Japan, which treats Covid patients through local public health centers and tracks infections and hospitalizations by default. Daily new cases jumped to over 40,000 on Monday from double digits just six weeks ago, pushing the country to put more than half its prefectures under a state of quasi-emergency. The move allows local governments to request restrictions on social activities as hospital beds fill. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention raised the travel advisory for Japan to level 3 on Tuesday, the second highest on a scale of zero to 4, from level 1. The American health agency warned visitors should be fully vaccinated before entering the country since they may be at risk for getting and spreading the variant. 

Improving Care

The testing change will improve patients’ access to medical care. Though overall deaths have remained low throughout the pandemic despite the country’s large elderly population, thousands were turned away from hospitals and hundreds died at home without seeing a doctor during previous waves.

Read more: Omicron Pushes Japan to Consider Treating Covid Like the Flu

Calls are growing in Japan to treat Covid as endemic, adding to a global chorus pushing for a return to normal life as vaccines and treatments become more accessible. Public figures from the governor of Tokyo to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have signaled their support for handling Covid like the flu, based on data that shows omicron poses a less severe risk than previous strains. 

Japan still requires a 10 day quarantine period for those who had close contact with a Covid patient. While they can isolate at home, removing the risk of overwhelming quarantine facilities, the rule can create pressure on workers and staffing. Regional leaders are skeptical that the current state of emergency, which primarily restricts the opening hours of bars and restaurants, will have a significant impact on mitigating the outbreak. 

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