People who arrived from abroad get their documents checked by quarantine staff at Narita Airport on Wednesday. | KYODO

Japan on alert for omicron variant community infections

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The health ministry has actually raised the level of caution against possible community infections with the omicron version of the coronavirus, tightening up border controls and launching screening tests for the new variant.Three cases of infection with the omicron variation that have been found in Japan were all identified in airport quarantine checks. After both evaluated positive for the coronavirus in checks at Narita Airport near Tokyo, the omicron version was identified from them in genetic analysis by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.Under the health ministrys previous guidelines, airplane guests seated in the same row as an infected individual as well as those in 2 rows instantly in front and behind had actually been concerned as close contacts.Effective on Nov. 30, when the Namibian diplomats infection with the omicron version was confirmed, the ministry revised the policy and designated all travelers of the plane bring an omicron-positive individual as close contacts.The ministry made the modification out of consideration for stress and anxiety amongst the people, health minister Shigeyuki Goto said, with many things not yet understood about the omicron version, including its infectiousness and the effectiveness of the existing COVID-19 vaccines.Close contacts have to undergo a polymerase chain reaction test about every two days and are needed to be separated for 14 days at designated accommodation facilities so that the ministry can examine their activities carefully, an official said.But a senior ministry authorities warned that it is challenging to prevent infections by border controls alone in view of the variants thought strong infectiousness.The delta variant, the primary cause of the 5th wave of infections in Japan this summer, was first spotted in the nation from an entrant in an airport quarantine check. The health ministry has actually broadened the scope of infection cases that are subject to genome analysis and advised local governments to start evaluating tests on all coronavirus-positive people to find any infections with the omicron variation.

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