The country’s transport ministry urged overseas airlines to halt accepting new bookings for any flights arriving in Japan until the end of December, according to Japan’s NHK public television.
According to NHK, the ministry made the request as an emergency measure due to mounting fears about a new coronavirus type.
Those who have made bookings in the past are unaffected.
The announcement comes one day after Japan verified a second case of the novel coronavirus type — known as omicron — in an arrival from Peru, one day after reporting the first case on Tuesday after genetic sequencing on samples collected from a Namibian diplomat.
Japan began giving coronavirus vaccine booster doses to health-care workers on Wednesday, amid mounting fears about a new version of the virus that has already been discovered in the nation.
The initial vaccination campaign in Japan began in mid-February, and some medical workers who received vaccinations more than nine months ago are now eager to get additional protection ahead of a possible next wave of infections, especially after the new omicron variant, which was first discovered in South Africa last week, was discovered in Japan on Tuesday.
Much about the new variation is unclear, including if it is more infectious, as some health officials believe, whether it causes individuals to get more gravely ill, and whether it may prevent the vaccination.
Booster injections were given to a group of nurses and physicians at Tokyo Medical Center.
“Treating our patients and their families with a sense of safety is a vital first step,” hospital chief Kazuhiro Araki said.
Booster injections are crucial, Araki said, even if vaccine efficacy against the new version is still being investigated. Vaccines are still effective against other strains of the virus, including delta, which put a burden on Japan’s health care systems last summer.
In theory, patients who had their second dose eight months ago are eligible for a third shot to avoid infection breakouts. If illnesses resurface, eligibility may be reduced to six months, according to authorities.
Japan’s vaccination program started slowly but picked up in late May, with roughly 77 percent of the population now completely vaccinated — one of the key reasons for the country’s gradual slowdown of illnesses since September, according to experts.
Booster doses for the elderly, who had their first inoculations in April, are slated to start in January.
The booster vaccination campaign began as a result of widespread concern about the new strain. The first instance of omicron was discovered in a Namibian diplomat who had recently arrived in Japan on Tuesday.
As an emergency measure against the new strain, Japan has prohibited all international visitors as of Tuesday. The prohibition is expected to last until the end of the year. Japanese nationals coming in the country would be quarantined for up to 14 days, according to the authorities.
According to early research, the worldwide danger from the omicron variety is “extremely high,” and it might lead to surges with “serious effects,” according to the World Health Organization.