Coronavirus: Japan, France report first cases of omicron variant

TOKYO — Japan and France on Tuesday reported their first cases of the new coronavirus variant, omicron.

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According to The Associated Press, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said a visitor to the country – a man in his 30s who had arrived from Namibia – tested positive for the new variant and was taken to the hospital.

Meanwhile, officials in France also reported that a 53-year-old man tested positive for the variant in the French territory of Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean, according to the AP. The man, who is now in quarantine, recently had been in Mozambique and South Africa, officials said.

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The announcements came just one day after Japan said it is barring entry of foreign visitors, and two days after Morocco’s foreign ministry tweeted that it is temporarily suspending incoming international flights. On Friday, the United States also said it would restrict travel from South Africa, where the variant was first discovered, as well as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia and Lesotho, The New York Times previously reported.

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Although the new variant has been detected in several European countries, Canada, Australia, Israel and Hong Kong, no cases have been reported in the U.S., according to the AP. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, however, told “Weekend Today” on Saturday that he “would not be surprised” if omicron was already circulating here.

On Monday, Oxford University’s Our World in Data project reported that so far, 54.2% of people worldwide have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. About 79% of Japan’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose, compared with 77% of the population in France, according to the data.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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