Photo/Illutration Health minister Shigeyuki Goto speaks at a news conference on Aug. 4. (Mirei Jinguji)

The health ministry is asking people with mild COVID-19 symptoms to not rush to see a doctor if they are under 65 and have no underlying medical conditions.

Health minister Shigeyuki Goto made the request on Aug. 4 as an explosive rise in novel coronavirus infections is severely straining emergency care systems and outpatient services for those with a fever.

“We are asking for public cooperation in efficiently allocating limited medical resources to ensure those most in need can get immediate access to health care services,” Goto said.

The request went further than the one the ministry issued on July 22 asking the public to refrain from using emergency outpatient services if they are asymptomatic and simply want to get tested for COVID-19.

In making the latest request, the ministry quoted a joint statement the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases and three other medical groups released on Aug. 2.

The statement outlines expert advice on when people suspected of having contracted the virus should use emergency care services or outpatient services for those with a fever.

It recommends those with mild symptoms to not hurry to a hospital to undergo testing or receive drugs unless they are 65 or older, have a pre-existing condition or are pregnant.

The statement also advises calling an ambulance if the patient looks pale, is unconscious or has difficulty breathing after moving a little.

The ministry also issued a directive to prefectural governments to inform residents of the new policy regarding hospital visits by referring to the expert advice.