Japan requests airlines to halt bookings for incoming flights over Omicron fears
Japan's transportation ministry on Wednesday requested airlines to stop bookings for incoming flights to Japan for one month as fears are growing among people over the Omicron variant of the COVID-19.
However, people with existing bookings will still be able to fly into Japan.
The decision came after a second case of the Omicron variant was reported in the country. The strain was detected in a man in his 20s who arrived from Peru at Narita Airport near Tokyo on Saturday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced the government would ban all foreign travelers from South Africa and nine other African nations effective Thursday, including foreign residents returning to the country.
Japanese citizens are allowed to return from those 10 countries, but they will be required to isolate at a government-designated facility for 10 days.
"We will work quickly to gain more knowledge of the situation in each country, and to respond accordingly," Matsuno said.
Japan had lifted some of its travel restrictions at the beginning of November, permitting foreign students, foreign technical interns and business travelers to enter the country. But the newly detected Omicron variant triggered a series of border measures by countries all over the world.
Although research into the transmissibility and nature of the Omicron variant is still in the early stages, the unprecedented number of mutations in the new variant suggests the possibility that it could spread further and faster even than the highly contagious Delta variant.