Japan braces for Omicron spread as New Year’s travelers fan across country


TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan braced for a feared rebound in coronavirus circumstances as the highways and airports crammed with travelers at the beginning of New Year’s holidays on Wednesday.

The governors of the metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka urged residents to maintain end-of-year gatherings small, as extra circumstances of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 come to mild, together with a suspected cluster at an Osaka nursing residence.

Health officers suggested travelers to avail themselves of free coronavirus checks earlier than departure, amid fears that an outpouring of metropolis dwellers might spread infections to the countryside.

“The highest danger is assembly folks with out taking sufficient measures to stop an infection,” mentioned Norio Ohmagari, director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center and a high well being advisor to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

“Also, as a result of stories of comparatively delicate infections attributable to the Omicron pressure, persons are underestimating the chance of corona.”

The consecutive New Year’s holidays mark one of many busiest journey seasons in Japan. Footage from public broadcaster NHK confirmed Tokyo’s major airports have been packed, whereas public freeway information confirmed a 39 km (24 mile) visitors jam heading southwest of the capital.

Officials in Osaka confirmed 5 Omicron circumstances at a nursing residence, believed to be the primary cluster of the variant in Japan, Kyodo information company reported on Tuesday.

Community transmission of Omicron has been present in eight prefectures thus far, in response to a Jiji information company tally. The variant might comprise 90% of COVID-19 circumstances in Osaka by early subsequent month, in response to a projection launched on Tuesday by Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura.

Concerns that Omicron could also be extra infectious and evade vaccine protections have prompted Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to speed up Japan’s booster shot programme and preserve a number of the world’s strictest border restrictions.

New COVID-19 infections have ticked up in latest weeks, reaching 385 nationwide on Tuesday. Even so, critical circumstances and deaths have stayed low, aided by a vaccination push that has totally inoculated nearly 80% of the inhabitants.

Japan has seen simply 28 COVID-19 associated fatalities in December, on target for the bottom month-to-month tally since July 2020.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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