July 7, 2022

With travellers filled around the highways and airports at the start of New Year’s holidays, Japan has been bracing for a feared rebound of coronavirus infections.

According to reports, as more cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 come to light in the country, including a suspected cluster at an Osaka nursing home, the governors of the metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka has urged residents to keep end-of-year gatherings limited and small.

A local news agency reported that officials in Osaka on Tuesday confirmed five Omicron cases at a nursing home, which is believed to be the first cluster of the variant in Japan.

Amid fears that an outpouring of city dwellers could spread infections to the countryside, health officials have advised travellers to avail themselves of free coronavirus tests before departure.

Director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center, Norio Ohmagari, and a top health advisor to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced that the highest risk at present is meeting people without taking adequate measures to prevent infection. While also people are underestimating the risk of coronavirus due to the reports of relatively mild infections caused by the Omicron strain.

The succeeding New Year’s holidays has been marked as one of the busiest travel seasons in Japan.

Another local news agency reported community transmission of Omicron has been found in eight prefectures so far. And according to a projection released on Tuesday by Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura the variant may comprise 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in Osaka by early next month.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the concerns that Omicron may be more infectious and evade vaccine protections have prompted to accelerate the country’s booster shot programme and maintain some of the world’s strictest border restrictions.

According to health authorities, new COVID-19 infections in the country have marked up in recent weeks, reaching 385 nationwide on Tuesday. Even so, serious cases and deaths have remained low, due to a vaccination push that has fully inoculated almost 80 percent of the population.

In December the country recorded only 28 COVID-19 related fatalities, making it the lowest monthly tally since July 2020.