Japan confirms first known local omicron transmissions

  • People wearing face masks Friday walk along a pedestrian crossing at Shibuya district in Tokyo. Japan on Wednesday confirmed its first known local transmissions of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus in Osaka, a sign it is already making its way in the country.

    People wearing face masks Friday walk along a pedestrian crossing at Shibuya district in Tokyo. Japan on Wednesday confirmed its first known local transmissions of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus in Osaka, a sign it is already making its way in the country. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/22/2021 10:10 AM

TOKYO -- Japan on Wednesday confirmed its first known local transmissions of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus in Osaka, a sign it is already making its way in the country.

The family of three in Osaka had no record of traveling overseas and their infections could not be traced, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said.

 

The three are the first known cases of community transmission of the highly infectious omicron variant in Japan, Yoshimura said. "I believe they only happened to be detected and we must take steps on the assumption that there already are other cases of community transmission," he said.

Yoshimura said current restrictions on eateries in Osaka will remain in place, including a limit of four people per table for a maximum of two hours, to minimize risks during the year-end holiday season, when coronavirus infections surged last year.

More than 100 omicron cases have been identified in mainland Japan, but all involved people who tested positive upon entry at airports or those linked to them, government officials have said.

Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto, responding to the confirmation of the Osaka cases, said the government will do its utmost to prevent a further spread of the variant.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Concerns are also growing on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, where a large virus cluster has developed at a U.S. military base. Several Japanese employees at the base have tested positive for the omicron variant, raising suspicion they might be linked to the cluster on the base.

As of Wednesday, 215 Marines recently transferred from the U.S. to Camp Hansen on Okinawa have tested positive for the coronavirus, but it is not known if they are omicron cases, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said.

Hayashi said he urged the commander of U.S. Forces Japan, Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp, to conduct genomic analyses of the samples, step up anti-virus tests and other measures and prohibit troops from leaving the base to prevent the spread of the virus into the community.

Hayashi said the U.S. military has agreed to cooperate with Japan in testing cases for the omicron variant and share results with Japanese authorities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Japan eased its border controls in November, but quickly reinstated a ban on most new foreign entrants after omicron was first identified in South Africa.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday that he plans to keep the border controls, among the world's most stringent, in place until more details about the omicron variant are known.

Kishida said Japan is also tightening quarantine rules for those who come in close contact with omicron patients, requiring 14 days of isolation at designated facilities instead of the previous self-isolation at home.

He also announced plans to accelerate booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines, which started with medical workers in December.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.