Dec 26, 2020 - World

Japan halts foreign arrivals after reporting first case of new coronavirus variant

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaking during a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 25.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaking during a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 25. Photo: Nicolas Datiche/Pool/Getty Images

Japan announced Saturday that it will temporarily ban non-resident foreign nationals from entering the country starting on Dec. 28 after it discovered its first case of a new variant of the coronavirus that may be more transmissible, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The new variant, found in passengers arriving from Britain on Friday, has set off concern in the country as Tokyo struggles with a surge in cases heading into New Year holidays.

By the numbers: Tokyo reported 949 cases on Saturday, a record for the capital, according to Reuters.

  • Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday urged people to stay home and avoid social gatherings.

Of note: There is thus far no evidence that the new variant is more deadly — only that it appears more transmissible. There is also no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines will be less effective against the new variant.

The big picture: At least 31 countries have banned travel from the United Kingdom after the British government warned that a new variant of the coronavirus could be up to 70% more transmissible.

  • The new variant has been detected in Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands, according to the BBC.

Go deeper: BioNTech says it could produce vaccine for COVID-19 variant in 6 weeks if needed

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