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Japan experts decline to raise alert, as virus 'not yet prevalent'

Japan experts decline to raise alert, as virus 'not yet prevalent'

TOKYO -- The coronavirus outbreak remains at an initial stage in Japan, an expert panel under the health ministry said Sunday, choosing not to raise the country's alert level to allow for a more aggressive response.

"The government is still able to track down infection routes to a certain degree," said Takaji Wakita, chief of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The health ministry had hoped for an upgrade to the next alert level, which signals a rapidly growing outbreak with high domestic transmission rates.

Such a move would let the ministry switch focus from screening overseas arrivals and tracking infection routes to catching homegrown cases early on and boosting treatment capacity.

Despite the decision Sunday, the ministry remains concerned about the increase in patients with no direct ties to China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

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