Japan Logs First Omicron Coronavirus Case, Closes Borders

Japan recorded its first case of the coronavirus variant Omicron Tuesday in a man who arrived in Tokyo from Namibia on Sunday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu (pictured below) told reporters at a press conference.

Japan’s government confirmed the new infection on the same day it imposed a month-long ban on all foreign entries to Japan. The travel restriction was introduced in response to news that a new variant of “Covid-19,” or the Chinese coronavirus, called Omicron, emerged this month in southern Africa.

Matsuno told reporters on November 30 that Japan’s first Omicron patient is “a diplomat from Namibia in his thirties who arrived at the Japanese capital’s airport of Narita [on November 28].”

Japan’s health ministry said the man presented “no symptoms” of illness upon arriving at Tokyo-Narita on Sunday “but developed a fever on Monday.”

“Two family members traveling with him have tested negative and are quarantining at a government-designated facility,” according to the ministry.

“The man tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival and samples were being examined at [Japan’s] National Institute of Infectious Diseases to confirm whether it was the Omicron variant,” Matsuno told reporters at Tuesday’s press briefing.

“Around 70 people who were on the same flight as the man … have tested negative and are being treated as close contacts,” Japanese Health Minister Goto Shigeyuki told reporters on November 30.

Goto said the Namibian Omicron patient is currently quarantined at a state-run facility. The health minister added that the patient was “fully vaccinated,” though he did not specify with which type of vaccine.

Matsuno said Tuesday the discovery of the Omicron patient demonstrated that Japan’s government made the correct decision in choosing to shut its borders to all foreign entries this week.

“In order to avoid the worst-case situation with Omicron, we’ll stay on top of the infection situation in each nation and respond flexibly and fast,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary told reporters.

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) declared Omicron a “variant of concern” on November 26. The United Nations public health agency said Omicron demonstrates “several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.” Further study is necessary to know definitively if Omicron is more transmissible or causes more severe illness than existing variants of “Covid-19,” which is the name of the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a type of coronavirus.

“The emergence of the Omicron variant comes as Japan is experiencing a dip in infections,” Kyodo News observed on November 30. “Just 132 new coronavirus cases were reported across the country on Tuesday.”

“The previous wave of infections, caused by the Delta variant [of coronavirus] this summer, peaked at more than 25,000 cases per day,” the Japanese news agency recalled.


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