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New Covid variant found in Japan

Japan's health ministry announced on Sunday that a new Covid variant has been detected in four travellers from Brazil's Amazonas state.

Japan’s health ministry announced on Sunday that a new Covid variant has been detected in four travellers from Brazil’s Amazonas state. The variant is different from those first found in the UK and South Africa that have driven a surge in cases in the respective countries.

Japan finds new Covid variant

Studies are already underway regarding the efficacy of vaccines against the new variant according to a statement made by a ministry official.

Head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Takaji Wakita, told a health ministry briefing: “At the moment, there is no proof showing the new variant found in those from Brazil is high in infectiousness.

Japanese authorities notified Brazil’s Health Ministry that the new variant has 12 mutations, one of which is also found in the British and South African variants. “It implies a potential higher virus infectiousness,” it said.

The four travellers who tested positive at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on 2nd January comprised of a man in his 40s with problems breathing, a woman in her 30s with a headache and sore throat and a teenage boy with a fever, while a teenage girl was asymptomatic, the health ministry said.

The ministry added that the UK variant has been found in three different people in Japan having come into close contact with an infected person.

Brazil’s Health Ministry has requested that the Japanese government provide information on the new Covid variant such as the genetic sequence of the new strain detected in the four travellers. It has also asked the Japanese ministry for information on the travellers’ stays in Brazil in order to track their possible contacts.

Brazil is currently experiencing a second Covid wave, with a daily average of over 50,000 people testing positive for the virus this month. The mutant strains of the British and South African variants have been confirmed in Brazil.

In Japan, the government declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and three of its neighbouring regions last week after a significant increase in Covid cases. Cases across Japan have hit 289,000, with 4,067 deaths as of Sunday.

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