Japan, French island confirm first cases of Omicron variant

TOKYO (REUTERS) – Japan has confirmed its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday (Nov 30), citing unnamed government sources.

Japan had earlier on Monday said it would shut its borders to foreigners to prevent the spread of Omicron, joining Israel in imposing some of the strictest border controls since the variant’s discovery in southern Africa.

Japanese returnees from specified nations will have to quarantine in designated facilities, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

The Foreign Ministry said the tighter measures included extending mandatory hotel quarantines to six days instead of three for travellers from Britain. For those from nations including Australia and Austria, the duration rises to three days from none.

Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto said on Monday that a traveller from Namibia had tested positive for Covid-19 at the airport, and that further tests were needed to find out if the new variant was involved.

Separately, a person has tested positive for the Omicron variant on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, official researcher Patrick Mavingui said on Tuesday.

Dr Mavingui said the person was a 53-year old man who had travelled to Mozambique and made a stopover in South Africa.

The patient, who returned to La Reunion some two weeks ago, is currently in isolation, Dr Mavingui told local French media.

Omicron – first reported in southern Africa and which the World Health Organisation said carries a very high risk of infection surges – has triggered global alarm, with border closures casting a shadow over a nascent economic recovery from a two-year pandemic.

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Health Ministry data showed on Monday that France had registered its biggest jump in coronavirus-related hospital admissions since spring.

The number of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) with Covid-19 jumped by 117 to 1,749, the biggest increase since March to April, when the ICU number rose by more than 100 a day on several days.


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