Japan confirms first omicron case despite closing borders

·2-min read
Japan reports first case of omicron infection, a day after it closed its borders to foreign travelers   (Getty Images)
Japan reports first case of omicron infection, a day after it closed its borders to foreign travelers (Getty Images)

Japan reported its first case of omicron on Tuesday, a day after it announced the closure of its borders in response to the spread of the new Covid-19 variant.

Authorities said the patient whose identity has not been disclosed for his privacy, is a man in his 30s who arrived from Namibia.

He tested positive upon arrival at Japan’s Narita airport on Sunday and was isolated and is being treated at a hospital, said chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.

“Regarding the traveller arriving from Namibia, it was confirmed to be a case of omicron after analysis at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases,” AFP reported Mr Matsuno as saying.

According to Japanese media, two of his relatives have tested negative and have been quarantined, reported Associated Press (AP).

Authorities also said that his co-passengers and relatives have already been tested.

The development comes just a day after Japan became the second country after Israel to close its borders amid concerns that the new variant, which was first found in South Africa, is more transmissible than other variants.

With its first confirmed case of omicron, Mr Matsuno said the government will continue to maintain strict border controls. He added that efforts will also be taken to step up capacity to conduct genome analyses of the new variant.

Under its new travel rules, all foreign travellers, including students, are not allowed entry into Japan from Tuesday.

In addition, Japanese nationals and foreigners with resident permits are also required to quarantine for 14 days following entry into the country.

The new rules come into effect less than a month after the country eased travel rules for foreigners for the first time in a year, and also reduced their quarantine period to 10 days from 14 days.

Japan has avoided tough lockdowns in the pandemic and recorded a total of 18,300 cases. It has also fully vaccinated 77 per cent of its population.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has categorised omicron as a “variant of concern”. However, it has said that it will take weeks to understand the level of severity that the variant can present.

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