Japan closes borders to all travellers over omicron fears

Japan will close its borders to foreigners from Tuesday in a bid to prevent the spread of the omicron variant. The country has not yet detected any omicron infections, though the health minister, Shigeyuki Goto, said tests were being carried out to determine if a traveller from Namibia who tested positive was infected.

Fumio Kishida, the prime minister, said that he was ready for criticism that he was being too cautious.

“These are temporary, exceptional measures that we are taking for safety’s sake until there is clearer information about the omicron variant,” Mr Kishida said. 

He did not say how long the restrictions would last for. Japanese citizens returning from specified nations will face quarantine in designated facilities.

Israel has also closed its borders to foreign travellers. Its ban took effect from midnight on Sunday, and it has said it will use counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to combat the new variant. 

Meanwhile, Britain will convene an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday to discuss the variant first detected in South Africa amid concerns it could spread rapidly and partially evade existing jabs.

Three cases of omicron have been detected in the UK: Nottingham, Brentwood and Westminster. All three people had recently travelled to southern Africa and targeted testing is now being carried out in those locations.

Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said more cases are likely to emerge. “We’re investigating suspected cases at the moment, that’s anyone positive who returned from southern African countries over the last number of weeks. We’re chasing down those individuals and their contacts and asking them to isolate if they’re within 10 days.”

Close contacts of positive omicron cases are being ordered to self isolate for 10 days even if they have been vaccinated.

From Tuesday it will be compulsory to wear face masks in shops and on public transport, and isolation rules will return for international arrivals until they receive a negative PCR test.

Secondary schools are also being “strongly advised” that students should wear masks in communal areas.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

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