A new variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which is distinct from the ones found in the United Kingdom and South Africa, has been detected in Japan, the country’s health officials said on Sunday.
According to Takaji Wakita, the Director-General of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), the variant was found in four people who arrived from Brazil. It appears to be different to the highly infections strains that are blamed for recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
The infected travelers, ranging from their teens to their 40s, arrived on Jan. 2 at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, where they tested positive for COVID-19. Three of them had shown symptoms, including difficulty breathing, fever, and sore throat.
The NIID said it is difficult at this time to evaluate how transmissible the new strain is, or how likely it will lead to severe symptoms, or how effective the vaccines against it can be.
“At the moment, there is no proof showing the new variant found in those from Brazil is high in infectiousness,” Wakita said.
In addition, two new cases of the UK strain were identified in Japan. The two infected individuals reportedly had dined with another man who tested positive after arriving from the UK.
The discovery of the new CCP virus strain comes as the megalopolis of Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures entered a new state of emergency due to rising infection counts and deaths, prompting government officials to implement tougher public health restrictions in order to curb the spread of the virus.
As of Jan. 10, Japanese health officials have reported 4,035 deaths from COVID-19. That number includes passengers of Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama in February 2020.
The East Asian country’s deaths toll just passed the 3,000 mark on Dec. 22, meaning that some 1,000 COVID-19 patients have died in the past 20 days.