As more instances of a new coronavirus type are verified throughout the world, Japan warned Monday that all international tourists will be denied entrance, joining an increasing number of nations that are sealing their borders as fear of yet another extension of pandemic suffering develops.
Japan has reimposed border controls that were lifted earlier this month for short-term business travelers, international students, and employees, despite the fact that it has yet to find any cases of the freshly detected omicron strain.
Despite the widespread concern, experts warn that it’s still uncertain if omicron is more harmful than previous strains of the virus, which have killed over 5 million people. Some nations are sticking to their prior pledges to relax restrictions, with Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand showing indications of reopening.
“We’re taking this move as an emergency precaution to avoid a worst-case situation in Japan,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said of the measure, which will take effect on Tuesday. Japan has barred all foreign visitors from entering the country.
Kishida advised people to continue wearing masks and taking other basic anti-virus precautions until further information on the new omicron type becomes available.
Kishida, whose predecessor was fired in part due to dissatisfaction with his handling of the virus, was not alone in taking a risky strategy until further information about omicron’s capabilities became available.
As nations around the world scramble to slow the spread of the variant, Israel has decided to bar foreigners from entering, and Morocco has announced that all incoming flights will be suspended for two weeks beginning Monday — among the most severe of the growing raft of travel restrictions being imposed by countries around the world. It was confirmed by scientists in a number of locations, including Hong Kong, Europe, and North America.
The Scottish government confirmed the identification of six additional instances of the omicron form of coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the United Kingdom to nine. In all cases, it has requested that public health authorities do expanded contact tracing.
“Questions regarding its severity, transmissibility, and responsiveness to medicines or vaccinations remain, and experts are working quickly to offer more knowledge,” Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said.
Three instances of the variation were discovered over the weekend, prompting the British government to tighten laws on mask use and testing of new entrants in the nation.
The Netherlands, which has 13 confirmed cases, and Canada, which has two, were among the countries to disclose new cases over the weekend.
Officials in Malaysia, on the other hand, proceeded with the partial reopening of a bridge that connects the country to the island city-state of Singapore. New Zealand also declared that it will go forward with preparations to restore its borders after months of closure, while restricting travel from African countries.
The World Health Organization, citing the fact that the variation has already been found in a number of nations and that blocking borders has a limited impact, has asked for borders to be kept open.
Researchers in South Africa discovered the variety just a few days ago, and much about it is still unknown, including whether it is more infectious, more likely to cause serious disease, or more able to resist vaccination protection.
On Monday, health officials in Australia’s Northern Territory confirmed the state’s first case of omicron, a South African male who arrived in Darwin on Thursday. The prime minister is convening the National Security Committee to consider steps that may be done over omicron, according to Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Premier Dominic Perrottet of New South Wales stated on Monday that a third omicron case may emerge in his state. Two passengers returning from South Africa tested positive, according to local health officials on Sunday. They were asymptomatic and had received all of their vaccinations. Arrivals from nine African nations must now check into a hotel for quarantine.
In response to the omicron danger, New Zealand has imposed travel restrictions from nine southern African nations, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she does not expect any more restrictions.
And, according to Ardern, omicron hasn’t impacted New Zealand’s intentions to loosen restrictions in Auckland and transition the country into a new, more open phase of its pandemic response. Auckland bars, restaurants, and gyms may reopen as of late Thursday, bringing an end to a coronavirus shutdown that began in August.
“We’ve come out of COVID in better form than practically everywhere else in the globe,” Ardern added, citing low mortality rates, a booming economy, and high vaccination rates as examples.
Malaysians working in Singapore celebrated happy reunions with family members after the partial reopening of a land border that had been closed for over two years due to the epidemic.
Fully vaccinated passengers were transported by bus across the Causeway Bridge, which connects Singapore’s island with the Malaysian peninsula. Pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 testing were among the stringent requirements.
A COVID-19 case was discovered during a screening, according to Malaysia’s health minister, who did not elaborate. Before the epidemic, the causeway was one of the busiest land crossings in the world. Air travel between the two nations has been reopened with less restrictions, enabling anybody who is fully vaccinated to fly between the two countries quarantine-free.
Taiwan has claimed it would not increase its COVID-19 border rules to defend against the omicron version because it already has rigorous border entry restrictions.
Arriving in Taiwan necessitates a two-week quarantine period. It has also restricted the issuance of visas, and only individuals with resident permits and those with specific conditions are now allowed in.
Officials are reserving rooms in government facilities for tourists from countries where omicron cases have been detected, according to Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. Six nations, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center, are at high risk: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe.
Taiwan is anticipating a rise of tourists ahead of the Lunar New Year, and has permitted those returning to finish the two-week quarantine portion of their stay at home. Anyone coming, however, is still obligated to adhere to the 14-day quarantine regimen and may be fined if they do not.
North Korea, which claims no incidences of the virus and has implemented some of the world’s strictest anti-virus procedures, says it is doing everything it can to prevent omicron from entering the nation. Many people are skeptical about its claim of being coronavirus-free. North Korea has closed its international borders and dispatched officials since the outbreak began.
Meanwhile, the director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, Dr. Francis Collins, has stated that no research suggests the new COVID-19 variation causes more serious disease than prior COVID-19 variants.
“When you consider how quickly it spread over various areas in South Africa, I believe it is more contagious.” As a result, it appears to be particularly likely to transfer from one person to another…. On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Collins remarked, “What we don’t know is if it can compete with delta.”
Collins followed numerous experts in adding that the news should prompt everyone to redouble their efforts to employ the tools that the world now possesses, like as immunizations, booster doses, and preventative measures like mask use.
Beginning Monday, the United States will prohibit travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries. The restriction on ABC’s “This Week” will provide the United States’ top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “a period of time to increase our readiness.”
According to a White House statement, Fauci estimates that more precise information on the transmissibility, severity, and other aspects of omicron will take two weeks.
The travel bans enraged South Africa’s government, which said they were “equivalent to penalizing South Africa for its superior genetic sequencing and capacity to discover novel variations faster.”
The two persons who tested positive for the omicron strain in Hong Kong had received the Pfizer vaccination and had very moderate symptoms, such as a sore throat, according to David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert and government consultant on the pandemic.
“Vaccines should function, but their effectiveness will be reduced,” he stated.