Japan has confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and put a ban in place on Nov. 30 on arrivals of foreign visitors.
TOKYO, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Japan has confirmed the first case infected with the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 in the country, the Japanese government said Tuesday.
The infected person is a man in his 30s arriving from Namibia who tested positive for COVID-19 upon his arrival at the Narita international airport near Tokyo on Sunday.
The health ministry said the man had no symptoms when being at the airport but developed a fever on Monday, while two family members traveling with him have tested negative and are quarantined at a government-designated facility.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with cabinet members including Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto to discuss how the government will respond to the detection of the Omicron strain in Japan, which has seen a decline in COVID-19 cases.
On Monday, Kishida announced that the government will in principle ban the entry of all foreign nationals. He pledged to act quickly on concerns over the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Banning arrivals of foreign visitors began on Tuesday and will last for about one month, during which Japanese citizens and foreigners with resident status returning from high-risk areas are required to quarantine for up to 10 days in a government-designated facility.
Japan has already taken such stricter measures on people who have recently been to any of the nine African countries -- Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Japan will also suspend the recent easing of entry restrictions beginning Nov. 8, which has allowed vaccinated business travelers to have a shorter quarantine period and started to accept entry applications from students and technical interns on the condition that their host organization agrees to take the responsibility of monitoring their movement.
Starting on Wednesday, the country will also set its daily cap for arrivals at 3,500, down from 5,000. Returning Japanese citizens and foreign residents will be required to isolate for two weeks regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated.
On Monday 82 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded across Japan, a low figure being likely a result of a drop in testings over the weekend. The previous wave of infections caused by the Delta variant in summer saw a peak at more than 25,000 daily cases.
The Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa last week. So far, several European countries as well as countries and regions including Australia, Canada, Israel and China's Hong Kong have confirmed infections of the variant.
The WHO has called the strain with a large number of mutations a "variant of concern," warning that it may be highly transmissible and pose an increased risk of reinfection to people who have previously been infected with COVID-19.