Japan confirms 1st case of Omicron variant
TOKYO. KAZINFORM Japan has confirmed its first case of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the government said Tuesday, stoking fears of another wave of infections heading into winter.
A man in his 30s was found to be infected with the heavily mutated strain, which was first discovered in southern Africa last week, after arriving from Namibia at Narita airport near Tokyo on Sunday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference, Kyodo reports.
The World Health Organization has designated the Omicron variant a «variant of concern,» warning it poses a «very high» risk because it may be more transmissible or evade immunity from previous infections and vaccines.
The strain has already been confirmed in several countries in Africa and Europe as well as Canada, Israel and Hong Kong.
Concerns over the variant have prompted a number of countries to tighten travel restrictions, with Japan closing its borders to new arrivals of foreigners from Tuesday and requiring citizens and foreigners with resident status returning from high-risk areas to quarantine up to 10 days in a government-designated facility.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed to take every precaution to «avoid the worst-case scenario» in announcing the measures, which come just three weeks after Japan eased entry rules for businesspeople, international students and participants in its technical internship program.
The man from Namibia tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival and samples were being examined at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases to confirm whether it was the Omicron variant, Matsuno, the top government spokesman, said, adding the man is currently staying at a medical facility.
The health ministry said the man showed no symptoms at the airport but developed a fever on Monday, while two family members traveling with him have tested negative and are quarantining at a government-designated facility.
Kishida met with Cabinet members including health minister Shigeyuki Goto to discuss the government's response to the discovery of the strain in Japan, which is currently experiencing a dip in infections.
Just 82 new coronavirus cases were reported across the country on Monday, though the figure was likely especially low due to a drop in testing over the weekend. The previous wave of infections, caused by the Delta variant during summer, peaked at more than 25,000 cases per day.