Coronavirus pandemic and variant Omicron
Japan reported 501 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday – the first time the country has surpassed the 500 mark in more than two months.
The surge in cases, after a long period of low infections, has raised concerns as the public prepares to travel around the country to celebrate the new year.
In a video message posted on Twitter Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida promised to strengthen measures to prevent community spread of Omicron infections by preparing for “worst-case scenarios.”
“I will do my best to make oral medicine widely available and ensure the safety of the health care system,” said Kishida.
Japan has fully vaccinated nearly 80% of the population since December 27. Cases have been dwindling in recent months across the country, with fewer than 100 reported a day since October, after 25,000 daily infections during the summer.
But Japan reported its first locally transmitted case of Omicron on December 23 – and cases of the highly contagious variant are steadily increasing nationwide.
Cases on US military bases: In a news bulletin On Wednesday, officials at US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, said 80 personnel had tested positive for Covid-19.
That is the highest number reported on the basis in one day.
Meanwhile, at Marine Corps Camp Hansen in southern Okinawa Prefecture, nearly 300 people have been confirmed to be infected, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes that 47% of the samples are of the Omicron variant.
At a news conference last week, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said US forces in Japan had failed to check personnel before they left the United States, in a move that undermines Tokyo’s demand to comply under their border control measures.
Japan has urged the US military to abide by coronavirus testing and quarantine rules last Wednesday, as the Camp Hansen cluster grew.
In response, the Japan Marine Corps has re-imposed the obligation to wear masks for everyone at the facility regardless of immunization status, with the exception of activities such as eating or exercising.