A ban on new incoming flight reservations in Japan has been dropped, the country’s government said this morning. The policy aimed at stopping the new Omicron variant of coronavirus only came into force yesterday.
The Ministry of Transport on Wednesday issued a request to international airlines to stop taking new reservations for flights coming to Japan until the end of December as an emergency to defend itself against the Omicron variant.
But the ministry said this morning that it has withdrawn the request after receiving criticism from within and outside the country. The WHO has also called for travel restrictions to be lifted.
“The Ministry of Transport has withdrawn the request for a uniform suspension of new reservations and notified airlines,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters today.
Japan has reported two cases of Omicron, which were first reported in South Africa last week.
Much is still unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it is resistant to vaccines.
However, WHO and Coronavirus experts are increasingly convinced that the new Omicron variant is ‘super mild’.
Most patients experience only a severe headache, nausea, dizziness and high heart rate, according to hospitals and doctors in southern Africa.
Earlier this week, the WHO urged countries to drop travel restrictions and end the mass hysteria and instead be cautiously optimistic, as more and more reports from South Africa suggest that the new Omicron variant is no more deadly than the previous Delta variant.
News of the new variant, first reported in South Africa, led to mass hysteria around the world: markets were opened up and dozens of countries imposed travel restrictions and additional controls, including the UK, US, EU, Israel, Australia and Japan after the new mutations appeared in Britain, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Israel, among others.
The variant has more than 30 mutations – about twice as many as the Delta variant – which make it more transmissible and evade the protection provided by prior infection or vaccination.
More tests are needed, and experts say it could take weeks before a clear picture emerges.
Nearly two years since the start of the pandemic, which has claimed more than 5 million lives around the world, countries are on high alert.
As countries come to terms with the new Omicron variant, work is underway to adjust existing Covid vaccines.
Novavax said it “has already begun the development of a new recombinant spike protein based on the known genetic sequence of Omicron and will have it ready to begin testing and manufacturing within the next few weeks”.
Moderna said: “Since the beginning of 2021, Moderna has put forward a comprehensive strategy to anticipate new variants of concern.
“This strategy includes three levels of response if the currently approved 50 (g (micrograms) booster dose of mRNA-1273 proves insufficient to boost diminished immunity to the Omicron variant.”