Japan border controls tightened on new Covid variant first noted in Botswana
Kanako Mita and Noriko Watanabe
Modern Tokyo Times
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is tightening border controls in Japan concerning the new coronavirus variant that is raising enormous anxiety. Hence, tighter border controls have been announced for nations connected with Southern Africa. Therefore, tighter border controls now apply to Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Kishida said, “The government is responding with a strong sense of urgency. We’ll do enough to control borders.”
Deaths from coronavirus (Covid-19) remain relatively low in Japan when compared to other G-7 nations. However, regionally in Northeast Asia (excluding the Russian Federation), deaths are higher in Japan. Therefore, with recent infections and deaths being low in Japan, the fear is that the new coronavirus variant might trigger a fresh bout of infections resembling what happened during the Tokyo Olympics timeframe.
The new coronavirus variant (B.1.1.529) was noted in the province of Gauteng (South Africa). This area internationally is known for places including Johannesburg and Pretoria. However, all indicators point to the new variant emerging in Botswana.
The Guardian reports, “Although initially linked to Gauteng, the variant did not necessarily originate there. The earliest sample showing the variant was collected in Botswana on 11 November. Scientists say that the unusual constellation of mutations suggests it may have emerged during a chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, such as an untreated HIV/Aids patient.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) designated the new B.1.1.529 variant under the name of Omicron. Also, the WHO announced that Omicron is a “variant of concern.”
Travelers from the list of nations seeking to enter Japan are required to quarantine for ten days. Other measures will follow if the variant breaks out to a high degree.
Reuters reports, “Omicron’s mutations are likely to render certain COVID-19 treatments – including some manufactured antibodies – ineffective, said Dr. David Ho, professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University.”
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