Coronavirus pandemic and Omicron variant

The Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, addresses the public in a video posted on Twitter and YouTube.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, addresses the public in a video posted on Twitter and YouTube. (Office of the Prime Minister of Japan / YouTube)

Japan reported 501 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday – the first time the country has exceeded the 500 mark in more than two months.

The rise in cases, after a long stretch with low infection rates, sparked concern as the public prepared to travel across the country to celebrate the New Year.

In a video message that was hung up Twitter Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida promised to step up measures to prevent society from spreading Omicron infections by preparing for “worst case scenarios.”

“I will do my best to make oral medicine widely available and secure the health care system,” Kishida said.

Japan has fully vaccinated close to 80% of its population per capita. December 27th. Cases had dropped in the nose in recent months across the country, with fewer than 100 reported cases a day since October, having previously peaked at 25,000 daily infections over the summer.

But Japan reported its first locally transmitted case of Omicron on December 23 – and cases of the highly transmissible variant are slowly rising across the country.

Cases at US military bases: In a press release on Wednesday, officials at the US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, said 80 personnel had tested positive for Covid.

This is the highest number reported on the base in a single day.

Meanwhile, in Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen in the southern prefecture of Okinawa, nearly 300 people have been confirmed infected so far, according to Japan’s public television station NHK. The Japanese Foreign Ministry estimates that 47% of the samples are of the Omicron variant.

At a news conference last week, Prime Minister Hirokazu Matsuno said U.S. forces in Japan did not test their crews before leaving the United States, in a move that undermines Tokyo’s request to follow its border control measures.

Japan had urged the U.S. military to comply with coronavirus testing and quarantine rules last Wednesday as the Camp Hansen cluster grew.

In response, Marine Forces Japan has reintroduced mask mandates for everyone at the base, regardless of vaccination status, except for activities such as eating or exercising.


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