TOKYO (AFP) – Japan is banning entry to all non-resident foreign nationals as a precaution against a new variant of the Coronavirus that may be more contagious and has spread across Britain.
The State Department says the entry ban will begin on Monday and continue until January 31.
Last week, Japan banned non-resident foreigners from Britain and South Africa after the new substitute was confirmed in seven people over the past two days – five from Britain who had tested positive at airports and another two in Tokyo.
Japan also suspended the exemption from quarantine for 14 days for Japanese citizens and foreigners residing in a short-track program that began in November. Expats must now carry evidence of negative testing 72 hours before departure to Japan and self-isolate for two weeks after arrival.
Japan has been grappling with the spike in cases since November. The ministry confirmed a total of 217,312 cases, including 3,213 deaths, an increase of 3,700 over the previous 24-hour period. Tokyo alone reported 949 cases, setting a new record, despite calls by experts and government officials for people to spend a “quiet” holiday season.
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region:
– South Korea decided not to immediately implement its toughest rules in the greater Seoul region, despite the increase in coronavirus cases there. The region is currently subject to the second highest distance rules. There have been calls for restrictions to be lifted to the highest level, but the government is reluctant to do so due to concerns about the economy. Health Minister Kwon Deok Cheol said on Sunday that the government will maintain the current restrictions in the Seoul region until January 3. He said the third-highest level of spacing rules imposed in other regions would remain in effect until Jan.3. Korea recorded an average of 999 new cases per day last week, 690 of which were in the Seoul region. Under the current rules, nightclubs, karaoke rooms, fitness centers, gyms and schools have been suspended in the Seoul area. As additional steps, authorities last week banned social gatherings of more than five people and ordered the closure of ski resorts and other tourist sites. Tighter restrictions will close hundreds of thousands of other businesses and require companies that all non-essential employees work from home. South Korea reported 56,872 cases overall, including 808 deaths.
– Beijing officials reported five new locally transmitted coronavirus cases as authorities rushed to conduct mass testing of residents. The five cases, linked to previous injuries, were living in the Shunyi area of the city, which has since activated the emergency response plan including mass testing, tracing sources and clearance. As of Saturday noon, more than 120,000 coronaviruses have been tested. Authorities plan to test 800,000 people in the area. Separately, officials reported four locally transmitted cases in the northeastern coastal city of Dalia, with more than 4.75 million people tested after more than 20 confirmed cases this month. China reported 22 new cases in the past 24 hours, including 10 imported cases and 12 domestic cases. China has so far reported a total of 86,955 cases, with 4,634 deaths.
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