Japan suspends new bookings on all inbound flights


Tokyo National Hospitals Organization Medical Center Chief Kazuhiro Araki, center left, receives a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as Noriko Horiuchi watches, standing second from left, the minister Japan in charge of vaccination against COVID-19, Wednesday, December 1, 2021 in Tokyo.  Japan started giving the booster shots to health workers on Wednesday.  (Kyodo news via AP)

Tokyo National Hospitals Organization Medical Center Chief Kazuhiro Araki, center left, receives a booster shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as Noriko Horiuchi watches, standing second from left, the minister Japan in charge of vaccination against COVID-19, Wednesday, December 1, 2021 in Tokyo. Japan started giving the booster shots to health workers on Wednesday. (Kyodo news via AP)

PA

Japan has asked international airlines to stop taking new bookings for all flights arriving in Japan until the end of December as the country further tightens border controls against a new variant of the coronavirus, the ministry said on Wednesday. transports.

He said the request is an emergency precaution amid growing concern about the spread of the new variant of omicron.

Those who have already made reservations are not affected, although flights can be canceled if there are not enough passengers, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said. Passengers in transit are also not affected, he said. Japan is a major hub for flights to and from Asia.

The move comes as Japan confirmed a second case of the omicron variant in a person arriving from Peru via Doha, a day after reporting its first case to a Namibian diplomat.

The second patient, who has been fully vaccinated, tested positive for the coronavirus when he arrived on Sunday and was isolated during genetic sequencing. He was initially asymptomatic, but has since developed a fever and sore throat, officials said.

All of the 114 remaining passengers on the flight have tested negative and are being monitored by health officials, most of them at a government-designated facility.

Japan has banned all foreign visitors from Tuesday. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said this step is an emergency precaution against the new variant. The ban is extended provisionally until the end of the year. The government is also demanding that Japanese citizens arriving in the country be quarantined for up to 14 days.

The World Health Organization warned on Monday that the global risk of the omicron variant is “very high” based on early evidence, saying it could lead to outbreaks with “serious consequences.”

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health officials suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.

Narita International Airport Corp., which operates Japan’s main international airport near Tokyo, said it was not aware of any immediate changes in flight arrivals in response to the announcement.

The move was a disappointment for people planning travel during the holiday season, including Japanese citizens living abroad hoping to return home for the New Year period.

Many people on social media criticized the measure as being too strict, and one compared it to Japan’s national isolation policy during feudal times.

Japan had relaxed its social and economic activities after infections had slowed rapidly since September.

Meanwhile, Japan on Wednesday began offering coronavirus vaccine boosters to healthcare workers amid growing concerns about the new variant.

Japan’s initial vaccination campaign began in mid-February, and some medical workers who received vaccines more than nine months ago are now anxious to get additional protection before a possible new wave of infections.

A group of nurses and doctors received booster shots at the Tokyo Medical Center.

“It is an important first step for our patients and their families to be treated with a sense of security,” said hospital chief Kazuhiro Araki.

Even though the efficacy of the vaccines against the new variant is still under review, booster shots are important, Araki said, as the vaccines remain effective against other strains of the virus, including delta, which has exerted heavy pressure on Japanese healthcare systems this summer.

Those who received their second injection eight months ago are eligible for a third injection to prevent breakthrough infections. Eligibility may be shortened to six months if there is a resurgence of infections, officials said.

The roll-out of vaccination in Japan started slowly but increased from the end of May, and now around 77% of the population has been fully vaccinated – one of the main reasons cited by experts for the constant slowdown in infections in Japan since. September.

Booster shots for the elderly, who received their initial inoculations from April, are expected to begin in January.


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