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Japan confirms cases of new coronavirus variant

After the five people tested positive for the virus, further analysis said they had the British variant that is 70% more transmissible.

TOKYO, Japan — Japan’s health ministry has confirmed the country’s first cases of infection with the new variant of the coronavirus that was identified in Britain.

The five people arrived between Dec. 18 and Dec. 21, before Japan stepped up border control on Friday for entrants from Britain. A man in his 60s developed fatigue, but the other four were without symptoms.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said the five were sent to quarantine straight from the airports.

After they tested positive for the virus, further analysis conducted at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases determined they had the British variant that is 70% more transmissible, the ministry said in a statement.

Shigeru Omi, head of a government taskforce, called for tighter border control to prevent new variants.

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Last weekend, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant of the coronavirus seemed to spread more easily than earlier ones and was moving rapidly through England. But Johnson stressed “there’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” or that vaccines will be less effective against it.

The United States will require airline passengers from Britain to get a negative COVID-19 test before their flight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced late Thursday.

The U.S. is the latest country to announce new travel restrictions because of a new variant of the coronavirus that is spreading in Britain and elsewhere.

Airline passengers from the United Kingdom will need to get negative COVID-19 tests within three days of their trip and provide the results to the airline, the CDC said in a statement. The agency said the order will be signed Friday and go into effect on Monday.

“If a passenger chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger,” the CDC said in its statement.

Britain has been under considerable pressure since the word of the new variant of the virus was made public. Some 40 countries imposed travel bans on Britain, leaving the island nation increasingly isolated.

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