(21 Dec 2021) Japan will continue its recently reimposed strict border controls that ban most foreign entrants until more information is known about the omicron variant of the coronavirus, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday.
Kishida said he will step up quarantine requirements for those who had close contact with an omicron patient to a 14-day isolation at a government-designated facility instead of the current stay-home requirement.
He was speaking at a news conference marking the end of the current parliamentary session that approved a record 36 trillion yen (approx. 317 billion US dollars) extra budget to fund COVID-19 measures and revive the pandemic-hit economy.
Kishida did not give a timeline for the ongoing border controls.
After a brief easing of the controls, Japan reinstated some of the world’s toughest border controls amid the global upsurge in the omicron variant.
Kishida said the increase in omicron infections in the United States is causing some uncertainty for his hope to visit Washington as soon as possible for in-person talks with President Joe Biden, he said.
Much about the omicron coronavirus variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness.
Scientists say omicron spreads even easier than other coronavirus strains, including delta.
Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing an omicron infection but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.
Even if it is milder, the new variant could still overwhelm health systems because of the sheer number of infections.
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