Japan on alert for the spread of the Omicron variant

In Japan, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has health authorities bracing for a worst-case scenario. The strain is now identified in 14 prefectures.

Authorities have confirmed 58 Omicron infections nationwide, including cases not found in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Aichi and Fukuoka.

The majority of infections are confirmed among passengers on return flights from abroad. Health authorities are now trying to track the movements of thousands of fellow travelers believed to have been in close contact with these people.

The government is asking close contacts to stay in designated hotels for two weeks and have PCR tests every few days.

Some who have to care for children or other family members are allowed to stay at home. But they are required to pass the same number of PCR tests as they would at designated facilities. They must submit their samples to the health authorities who come to their homes.

The growing number of close contacts with Omicron is increasing the pressure on public health centers. Takanohashi Migiko from Shinagawa Health Center said, “We already have our hands full of close contact. We will not be able to manage if community transmission increases.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing to deliver the oral COVID-19 drug molnupiravir to hospitals designated by the prefecture. Medical staff should start administering it after Monday.

Authorities on Sunday confirmed a total of 263 coronavirus infections across Japan. The weekly average of daily new cases is rising, and health officials warn of an increased risk of infection as travel resumes for the New Year’s holidays.

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