Potentially more contagious than previous strains, the Omicron Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has spread to at least 12 other countries, prompting several countries to step up containment measures. Follow AXADLETM for live updates.
It could take “a few days to several weeks” to understand the level of severity of the variant, warned the World Health Organization (WHO), which has flagged Omicron as a “variant of concern.”
The Omicron variant has been found in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy and the Netherlands.
8 a.m. KST: Japan bans foreigners
Japan has said it will close its borders to foreigners to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, joining with Israel in imposing some of the tightest border controls since the variant was discovered in South Africa.
Japan will ban entry to foreigners from midnight on Monday, and Japanese returnees from a number of specified countries will be required to self-quarantine at designated facilities, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.
“These are temporary and exceptional measures that we are taking for safety reasons until there is clearer information about the Omicron variant,” Kishida continued.
“I am ready to endure any criticism from those who say the Kishida administration is too cautious.”
It comes just weeks after Kishida’s new government eased quarantine measures on foreign business travelers to help boost the economy.
>> Read more: Japan reinstates ban on foreign visitors
(AXADLETM with AFP and REUTERS)
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