Japan, Sweden detect cases of British coronavirus variant


Japan Sweden on Saturday recorded their first cases of the new, apparently more transmissible variant of the coronavirus that appeared in Britain.

Japan decided on Saturday to temporarily suspend the entry of foreign nationals, after it confirmed a total of seven cases of a new coronavirus variant identified in Britain, local media reported.

The suspension will begin on Monday and run until the end of January, Kyodo News reported, citing government officials.

Two more people were confirmed on Saturday to have been infected with a new coronavirus variant.

The country has reported a national record of more than 3,870 new cases, marking the highest daily increase for the fourth day in a row.

The two are a pilot who stayed in Britain and one of his family members, and they have been hospitalised in Tokyo, according to the Health Ministry.

The ministry on Friday reported its first cases of a new coronavirus variant identified in Britain.

Five people were sent into quarantine after their infections were confirmed upon their arrival from Britain between Dec. 18 and Dec. 21, Health Minister Norihisa Tamura told a news conference.

A man in his 60s experienced fatigue while the other four had no symptoms, the ministry said in a statement.

The five arrived before Japan began on Thursday to impose a temporary ban on foreign visitors from Britain.

Currently only Japanese citizens and foreign nationals with resident status are allowed to enter the country. They are required to go into quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

Meanwhile, there were 949 new cases in Tokyo, also the highest single-day tally, as the government urged the public to refrain from social gatherings during the New Year holiday.

The nationwide figure of more than 3,870 new cases exceeded the previous single-day record of 3,828 on Friday.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called on the public on Friday to spend a “quiet” year-end and new year period as Japan has been hit by a third wave of new coronavirus infections since-mid November.

Japan has so far escaped a virus outbreak on the scale seen in Europe and the United States, with a total of about 219,000 known infections and more than 3,200 Covid-19-related deaths.

On its part,  Sweden said a traveller who recently arrived from Britain for the Christmas holidays tested positive for the new mutated strain, Sara Byfors of the Public Health Agency told a regular press conference.

Other members in the traveller’s household have tested negative, added Signar Makitalo, infectious disease physician with the region of Sodermanland, near Stockholm.

Makitalo said the traveller had been “extremely careful” and sought to limit all risks. The test result was from Dec. 21, and the new strain was confirmed on Saturday.

The traveller – who was not identified by gender, nationality or age – had followed recommendations and self-isolated on arrival in Sweden.

“We cannot rule out that there are other cases,” he said.

Arrivals from Britain were advised to self-isolate for seven days.

“We are collecting samples from everyone who has arrived from Britain since October. This week we urged everyone who has travelled from Britain to test themselves,” Byfors added.

Sweden recently introduced a ban for passenger flights from Britain effective up to and including New Year’s Eve.

The ban did not affect freight planes and ambulance flights, and there were exceptions for urgent family matters.(dpa/NAN)