Japan is closing its borders to foreigners on Tuesday. This is a reaction to the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus – the omicron. This is the second country in the world to close due to the omicron. Earlier, this decision was made by Israel.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Monday that he is introducing a ban on entry to the country for foreign visitors. The regulations are to enter into force on Tuesday. “This is a precaution to avoid a worst-case scenario in Japan,” explained Kishida. He added that Japanese returning from several government-determined countries will have to be quarantined in designated facilities.
The new ordinance comes into force a few weeks after the relaxation of the quarantine rules for foreign business travelers to boost the economy.
Kishida urged citizens to continue wearing masks and adhering to other basic protection rules until more details about the omicron variant were known. To date, no case of infection with this strain has been detected in Japan. Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto said at a press conference that one person traveling from Namibia had tested positive for the coronavirus, and further tests are being carried out to determine if it is an omicron.
Israel is shutting down
The first country to close its borders because of the appearance of the omicron was Israel. The ban came into force on Sunday evening and is expected to last 14 days.
The government has decided that Israeli citizens returning from abroad are required to perform a PCR test upon return to the country and quarantine. Vaccinated and healthy Israelis will go through a three-day quarantine. The unvaccinated will be in self-isolation for seven days, provided the second coronavirus test is negative.
On Friday, the Israeli authorities decided to put all African countries, with the exception of the northern part of the continent, on the red list of countries to which Israelis are not allowed to travel without special permission. Travelers from these countries were also banned from entering Israel. The Israel Logistics Service said it was locating all those who had come from these countries in the past week in order to “instruct them to go into quarantine immediately” by using, among other things, anti-terrorist cell phone monitoring.
Ban on flights from Africa
Many countries have so far banned arrivals from South African countries where the first case of the new variant has been reported, despite the researchers stressing that it is not yet known whether the omicron is more dangerous than the others.
The World Health Organization called for the borders to be left open, pointing to the limited effectiveness of closing them. In a statement, the WHO spoke in favor of solidarity with African countries. Travel restrictions may play a minor role in reducing the spread of COVID-19, she noted, but that they put “a heavy burden on everyday life and livelihoods.”
Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president of the United States, estimated that it took about two weeks to provide conclusive information about the transferability and other characteristics of the new variant
Omikron – a disturbing new variant
On Friday, the World Health Organization classified the new omicron coronavirus variant, first reported in South Africa, as “worrying”. The presence of the omicron has already been confirmed, among others in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain and Italy.
The WHO indicated on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether the new mutation is spreading faster than previously known variants or whether the infection with it leads to a more severe course of COVID-19. The organization also admitted that, according to preliminary data, the new variant increases the risk of re-infection. ‘It may take up to several weeks to fully understand a new variant,’ pointed out the WHO. As she emphasized, PCR tests detect omicron infection and studies are ongoing to determine whether the new variant has influenced the effectiveness of antigen tests.
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