Japan to tighten travel curbs for Africa arrivals over new Covid variant

Tokyo: Japan will tighten restrictions on travellers from six African countries after the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in South Africa, the government’s top spokesman said on Friday.

Starting Saturday, travellers who have recently been to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe will be requested for a 10-day quarantine period in a government-designated facility upon their arrivals, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced at a press conference.

After leaving the government-designated facility, travellers will also need to spend four more days in quarantine at home to ensure they are not infected. The earlier rule allowed them to spend all 14 days at home, Xinhua news agency reported.

The decision was made amid increasing concerns over the spread of a Covid-19 variant known as B.1.1.529, which infectious disease experts warn could be more contagious than previous strains or reduce the efficacy of existing vaccines.

Matsuno said the Japanese government decided to designate the variant as one that requires special responses and would proactively respond if the variant spreads.