TOKYO – Japan has confirmed its first case of the variante Omicron del coronavirus last Tuesday and the following day the country closed its borders to all foreigners with one of the toughest precautionary measures in the world. Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto informed reporters Tuesday evening that genomic screening detected the Omicron variant in a 30-year-old male Namibian diplomat who landed in Tokyo on Sunday en route from Namibia. one of nine African countries where cases of the new variant were initially reported.
The man, who had been vaccinated twice, entered the country on a flight of 71 passengers, all treated as possible contacts and therefore quarantined for 10 days in a government-designated facility, followed at a distance via a GPS application. managed by the Ministry of Health and tested for Covid-19 once every two days.
With an average of around 100 new cases across Japan (less than 10 per day in Tokyo), only one death on average per day across the island and 77.4 percent vaccinated with two doses, the decision of the Prime Minister Fumio Kishida it appeared at least exaggerated, raising numerous criticisms, especially from the foreign community. The head of the third economic power in the world was certainly excessive alarmism, but who evidently wanted to avoid receiving the criticisms that were raised against his predecessor. Yoshihide Suga, who was accused of slowness in making important decisions, especially on the departure of the vaccination campaign before the Olympic Games.
Border restrictions on visa applicants were eased just a few weeks ago, but Kishida said he would take responsibility for all criticism for this further total closure of the country in a move analysts read as a strong message to enforce. its new leadership.
The measures, which will last at least a month from their entry into force, have generally been welcomed by local public opinion and the business world, despite the enormous repercussions that will have on the national economic system. Tourism has had a practically total collapse in the last two years, when investments, especially in anticipation of the Olympics, foresaw and required the opposite; the automotive industry is paying for the lack not only of spare parts, but also of specialized personnel who often come from abroad.
More than 370 thousand foreign citizens cannot enter Japan despite having pre-certification for residency status. We are talking about specialized technicians, international students, but also university researchers and industry executives. Entry is permitted only to returning foreign residents or those with special status, such as spouses of Japanese citizens. The health ministry was considering easing restrictions, but recent events have increased concern about a hypothetical partial opening and a new increase in cases. Some politicians of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party believe that the previous growth of infections is due to poor entry controls and are against loosening the rules, at the cost of losing additional economic resources.
As concerns about the Omicron variant spread, the government is considering shortening the interval between the second and third vaccine boosters from eight months to six months. Last month the government said a six-month interval would be needed, but only if a Covid-19 cluster hit hospitals or nursing homes, a very remote situation at the moment.
In addition to banning new entry of foreigners, Japan has imposed stricter quarantine measures for Japanese citizens and foreign residents who have recently been to certain countries or regions, requiring them to spend up to 10 quarantine days in designated government facilities.
A second case of the Omicron variant was then confirmed last Wednesday, forcing the government to further restrictions. Prime Minister Kishida then called on airlines to refuse further bookings for inbound international flights, forcing Japanese citizens and residents to stay out of the country. Japan will also deny re-entry to all foreigners, including residents on long-term visas, who have recently been to Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Japanese people throughout history have always shown that they firmly believe in the total closure of the country as a solution to the problems that come mainly from the West. It did so in the past by closing itself tightly for a period of over 250 years, until in 1853 the United States forced them to open up to foreign trade again. Now the global problem of the pandemic brings out the true nature of the Japanese, capable of making enormous sacrifices and even economic sacrifices in order to preserve the security and harmony of their people. We hope this closure will last less though!
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