Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida has announced the country will be closing its borders from Tuesday amid fears over the new Omicron COVID variant.
The news comes after Israel also closed its borders following concerns over how transmissible the new variant is over previous strains.
‘We are taking measures with a strong sense of urgency,’ Kishida said, adding that the country – which currently has 76% of its population fully vaccinated – will be closed to all foreigners, including business travellers and students, with the tighter controls coming amid the ‘rapid spread’ of Omicron around the globe.
Japanese citizens and residents returning to the country are exempt from the new rules, although, those coming back from countries where the Omicron strain has been detected will be instructed to quarantine in designated facilities, Independent reports.
G7 ministers are set to hold an emergency meeting – called on by G7 chair Britain – later today, November 29, about the new COVID strain while health experts scramble to establish the threat level of the variant.
Omicron was first detected in South Africa, with countries trying to swiftly act to contain the spread of the strain. The US, UK, Canada and Brazil are among several countries introducing travel restrictions in response.
It is not yet known how resistant Omicron is to the COVID-19 vaccinations and what the rate of transmission is, with the emergence of the strain shining a light on disparities in vaccination rates across the world.
As many developed countries begin to offer their residents booster jabs, less than 7% of people in poorer nations have been offered their first vaccine, according to human rights groups, as per The Guardian.
In England, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that from tomorrow, November 30, face coverings will be mandatory in shops and on public transport as well as tighter rules being enforced on people arriving from abroad.
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