Asia/Pacific

Japan asks airlines to suspend reservations for flights to country in response to omicron

Japan is asking airlines to suspend reservations for flights to the country in one of the strictest responses in the world to the new omicron coronavirus variant.

The move came on Wednesday, after Japan confirmed its second omicron case. The country told airlines to stop allowing travelers to reserve seats on incoming flights until the end of December.

Japan had already banned foreign visitors, even before the first omicron case in the nation was found earlier in the week.

Although most other countries have not put such strict restrictions in place, many — including the U.S. — have banned foreign travel from countries in southern Africa, where the highest case numbers of the omicron variant have been reported. 

Scientists are still working to determine if the new variant is more transmissible than past strains of the virus and how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against it. 

When the ban on foreign visitors to Japan was announced, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the restrictions were “temporary, exceptional measures” and were necessary “for safety’s sake until there is clearer information about the omicron variant.”

Concerns about the variant arise from the presence of 30 different mutations in its protein spike. Scientists say omicron likely developed in someone with untreated AIDS or HIV, as they have found that the virus lasts longer and has more of a chance to mutate in immunocompromised individuals than other coronavirus strains.

Tags COVID-19 variants Fumio Kishida Japan Omicron variant travel restrictions
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