The new coronavirus variant was recently detected in Japan, adding to the struggles of a country that has earnestly worked to make the Tokyo Games 2020 possible in July 2021.
Starting Monday, Japan will ban all foreign arrivals through the end of January after several cases of the coronavirus variant were recorded, the Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Japanese citizens and foreign residents can still enter, but they’re required to self-quarantine for 14 days, according to Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK.
However, businesspeople and students from 10 countries including Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea as well as Taiwan, with which Japan has a special scheme to ease travel restrictions, will not be affected by the suspension policy, the government added.
The move came after the Tokyo metropolitan government on Saturday confirmed two new cases of Covid-19 variant involving people who recently returned from the UK.
The two cases were the first to be discovered outside of airport quarantine in the country.
The two people infected with the variant are hospitalized in Tokyo. They are a pilot in his 30s who returned to Japan from London on Dec. 16 and a woman in her 20s, one of his family members, with no history of visiting the country, the health ministry said.
On Friday, five other travelers from Britain – four males and one female – were detected with the variant at Japan’s international airports.
Japan also announced that it will stop issuance of new visas starting Monday. Those who already obtained visas will be allowed to enter the country, but those were in Britain or South Africa within 14 days of applying for an entry permit will be excluded.
On Sunday, Japan’s cumulative total stood at 218,000 infections and 3,062 deaths.
The new coronavirus variant is said to have originated in the UK and is potentially more transmissible. Since its discover, more than 40 countries have restricted travel from the UK, and in some cases, travel from other countries that have documents cases with the variant.
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Restrictions of varying degrees have been announced by countries like Denmark, Ecuador, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine. Still others have banned travel or suspended flights from the UK, like Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain.