A new coronavirus strain has been detected in four travelers from Brazil’s Amazonas state, according to Japan’s health ministry on Sunday (January 10).
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It added that the strain differs from highly infectious variants first found in Britain and South Africa that have driven a surge in cases in those countries.
New COVID-19 Strain, Different from the UK, South Africa Variants Discovered in Japan
A Japanese ministry official noted that studies were underway into the efficacy of vaccines against the new variant, the Japan Times reported.
“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 (NIID) said.
Nonetheless, Brazil’s Health Ministry said that it has been notified by Japanese authorities that the new variant has 12 mutations, one of which is also present in the variants found in the U.K. and South Africa. “It implies a potential higher virus infectiousness,” it said.
Of the four travelers who arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Jan. 2, a man in his 40s had difficulty breathing, a woman in her 30s had a headache and sore throat and a male teenager had a fever, while a female teenager showed no symptoms, the health ministry said.
The four travelers in question were found to be positive with the novel coronavirus in airport quarantine, and the new mutant strain was detected through a detailed examination by the NIID, according to the ministry.
In Japan, the government recently declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures after seeing a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
Throughout the nation, cases have reached about 289,000, with 4,067 deaths as of Sunday, public broadcaster NHK noted.