Passengers on a flight that landed in Japan with an Omicron-infected traveler onboard have a very low possibility of testing positive for the new strain, the country’s health minister reportedly said, despite early data elsewhere suggesting the new variant has a higher reinfection rate compared to the likes of Delta.
Data on the variant is still limited, but the World Health Organization has classified Omicron as a “variant of concern” due to concerns that it could become more contagious and evade the protection of existing vaccines.
Japan’s Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto on Tuesday said that aircraft passengers are not at a high risk of infection from Omicron after the ministry found that only 0.1 to 0.2 percent of passengers on board a plane with an Omicron-infected traveler were infected with the new variant.
The aforementioned percentage is comparable to those who only tested positive for Omicron after going through quarantine procedures at Japanese airports, Goto said, reported The Asahi Shimbun.
The Japanese government has subsequently narrowed its definition of those in close contact with travelers infected with novel coronavirus, citing a lack of scientific evidence to expand a close contact definition to all passengers who shared the same flight with an infected traveler.
The government has imposed a new policy to reduce the number of close contacts, in which only passengers seated in the two rows in front and behind an infected person are deemed close contacts. Family members will also be deemed as close contacts with an Omicron case.
Previously, the government classified all passengers traveling on the same flight with an infected person as close contacts and required them to undergo a 14-day quarantine period at designated facilities.
Local authorities called on the government to review the measures as they scrambled to secure quarantine facilities amid the increasing number of close contacts to be placed under quarantine.
All persons who tested positive for coronavirus at airports will also be treated as Omicron patients, as the ministry stated that 80 percent of the infections confirmed at airports are infected with Omicron.