Japan Confirms Cases Of New Coronavirus Variant

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga puts on a face mask after a press conference on the COVID-19 situation in Japan at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. Suga on Friday he will seek a legislation to allow the government to impose legally-binding business restriction orders in return for compensation and punish violators as Japan struggles to slow the ongoing upsurge of the coronavirus cases ahead of the holiday season while people are becoming less cooperative. (Nicolas Datiche/Pool Photo via AP)

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Japan’s health ministry has confirmed the country’s first cases of infection with the new variant of the coronavirus that was identified in Britain.

The five people arrived between Dec. 18 and Dec. 21, before Japan stepped up border control on Friday for entrants from Britain. A man in his 60s developed fatigue, but the other four were without symptoms.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said the five were sent to quarantine straight from the airports.

After they tested positive for the virus, further analysis conducted at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases determined they had the British variant that is 70% more transmissible, the ministry said in a statement.

Shigeru Omi, head of a government taskforce, called for tighter border control to prevent new variants.