Japan to extend entry curb on foreign nationals amid omicron concerns, report says

Japan will extend its curb on foreign nationals entering the country beyond the end of the year to prevent the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, the Yomiuri daily reported Saturday, citing anonymous government sources.

Japan reversed an easing of controls late last month as omicron spread around the world. The country has one of the world’s strictest border policies, with only citizens and foreign residents allowed to enter, in principle.

Although COVID-19 cases have fallen dramatically since a deadly wave in August, there is growing concern over the omicron variant, which has been found more than 30 times in Japan, mostly during airport screenings and quarantine.

But the threat of a community spread of the variant has grown after a woman in her 20s tested positive for omicron while she was quarantining at her home in Tokyo after arriving from Texas on Dec. 8.

The woman did not abide by the rules that she pledged to follow after entry — namely, to not come into contact with others during the isolation period. That led to the infection of a man in his 20s, who visited the woman two times last week. He tested positive for the omicron variant on Friday.

The man had developed a fever and a cough two days before attending a J. League Emperor’s Cup match at Todoroki Stadium in Kawasaki on Sunday, media reports have said, prompting authorities to scramble to reach out to about 80 people who sat near him at the game and at least 100 people who work on the same floor at his workplace.

On Thursday, the health ministry’s coronavirus advisory board urged the government to beef up protection measures at ports and airports and conduct PCR screenings to detect variants for all COVID-19 cases, on the assumption that it will spread in the country sooner or later.

So far, the government has denied that the latest cases are examples of community infection, saying they are closely monitored cases that are traceable, even if they slipped through the initial testing at airports.

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