Japan bans foreign travelers as Covid-19 variant Omicron spreads

Tokyo, Nov 29 (EFE).- The Japanese government has again banned the entry of foreigners, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday, amid global concerns over the spread of Omicron, the newest coronavirus variant.

The ban that prohibits the entry of foreign nationals, including business travelers and students, will be effective from Tuesday.

It involves “an extraordinary measure until information about the Omicron variant becomes clear,” Kishida told reporters.

“This is a preventive, emergency measure to avoid a worst-case scenario,” Kishida said.

The government had relaxed its border restrictions from Nov.1 to allow people with business or study visas.

Earlier, the government had decided to tighten the entry of travelers from nine countries where the new Omicron variant has emerged.

These countries include South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia.

Very little is known about the new variant that “has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the World Health Organization said.

The United Nations health agency has designated new strain as a “variant of concern.”

The WHO said it was not yet clear if the Omicron variant was more transmissible compared to other Covid-19 variants or if it causes more severe disease.

“Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron,” the WHO said.

In Japan, health authorities have not detected any infection from the new variant, even as a person from Namibia was under investigation after testing positive for Covid-19, Kishida said.

Coronavirus infections in Japan have decreased significantly in recent weeks.

The number of daily infections has gone below 200. Some 76.5 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

The continuous decline in infections led the authorities to lift all domestic travel restrictions imposed for months due to the pandemic that had impacted businesses like bars and restaurants. EFE


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