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.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that business and other travelers from 11 countries would continue to be allowed entry into Japan. Among those countries is China, which is experiencing a major outbreak in its northern heartland. Shijiazhuang, which lies about 160 miles southwest of Beijing, has been placed under strict lockdown along with its 11 million residents after new clusters of COVID-19 cases emerged there.
Suga said Japan would continue allowing entry from those countries because they were considered safe in terms of COVID-19 issues, reported Asahi Shimbun. He said entry would continue to be allowed until community spread of COVID-19 variants was confirmed in that nation.
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.