A ban on new incoming flight bookings in Japan has been dropped, the country’s government said this morning. The policy, aimed at halting the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, only came into force yesterday.
The transport ministry on Wednesday issued a request to international airlines to stop taking new reservations for flights coming into Japan until the end of December as an emergency precaution to defend against the Omicron variant.
However, the ministry said this morning it has retracted the request after receiving criticisms from inside and outside the country. The WHO has also called for travel restrictions to be dropped.
“The transport ministry has retracted the request for a uniformed stoppage on new bookings and notified airlines,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters today.
Japan has reported two cases of Omicron, which was first reported in South Africa last week.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it is resistant to vaccines.
However, the WHO and Coronavirus experts are increasingly convinced the new Omicron variant is ‘super mild’.
Most patients merely experience a severe headache, nausea, dizziness and a high pulse rate, according to hospitals and medics across Southern Africa.
Earlier this week, the WHO called for countries to drop travel restrictions and end the mass hysteria, and instead be cautiously optimistic as more and more reports out of South Africa suggest the new Omicron variant is not more lethal than the previous Delta variant.
News of the new variant, first reported in South Africa, led to mass hysteria around the world: markets thumbed and dozens of countries imposed travel restrictions and additional checks, including the UK, US, EU, Israel, Australia and Japan after the new mutation popped up in the UK, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic and Israel among other countries.
The variant has more than 30 mutations – around twice as many as the Delta variant – which make it more transmissible and evade the protection given by prior infection or vaccination.
More testing is needed and experts say it can take weeks before a clear picture will emerge.
Nearly two years since the start of the pandemic that has claimed more than 5 million lives around the world, countries are on high alert.
As countries come to terms with the new Omicron variant, work is underway to look at tweaking existing Covid vaccines.
Novavax said it has “already initiated development of a new recombinant spike protein based on the known genetic sequence of Omicron and will have it ready to begin testing and manufacturing within the next few weeks”.
Moderna said: “Since early 2021, Moderna has advanced a comprehensive strategy to anticipate new variants of concern.
“This strategy includes three levels of response should the currently authorized 50 µg (microgram) booster dose of mRNA-1273 prove insufficient to boost waning immunity against the Omicron variant.”