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Japan finds new COVID-19 variant in travellers from Brazil

Japan finds new COVID-19 variant in travellers from Brazil

A departure lobby of Haneda International Airport is quiet due to the coronavirus outbreak in Tokyo, on Dec 28, 2020. (Photo: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO: A new coronavirus variant has been detected in four travellers from Brazil's Amazonas state, Japan's Health Ministry said on Sunday (Jan 10), the latest new mutation of the virus discovered.

A ministry official said studies were underway into the efficacy of vaccines against the new variant, which differs from highly infectious variants first found in Britain and South Africa that have driven a surge in cases.

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

Still, Brazil's health ministry said it has been notified by Japan's authorities that the new variant has 12 mutations, and one of them has already been identified in the variants found in Britain and South Africa.

"It implies a potential higher virus infectiousness," it said.

READ: Japanese pray for end to COVID-19 pandemic in annual ice bath ritual at Tokyo shrine

Of the four travellers who arrived at Tokyo's Haneda airport on Jan 2, a man in his forties had a problem breathing, a woman in her thirties had a headache and sore throat, a male teenager had a fever, while a female teenager showed no symptoms, the health ministry said.

All travellers are in quarantine at Tokyo's airport, Anvisa said.

After seeing a steep rise in coronavirus cases, Japan declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three prefectures neighbouring the capital on Thursday.

Nationwide cases have totalled about 289,000, with 4,061 deaths, public broadcaster NHK said.

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Source: Reuters/ga

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