Covid travel: Japan shuts down borders to all foreigners amid Omicron uncertainty

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As nervousness over the Omicron variant rose, Tokyo said it would shut to all foreigners, including students and business travellers from today. It becomes the second country after Israel to completely close its borders amid fears that Omicron may be more transmissible than previous variants of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “We are taking measures with a strong sense of urgency.”

Mr Kishida said Japan will go ahead with providing booster jabs to its vulnerable population, three quarters of which is already fully vaccinated.

Elsewhere, Dutch police confirmed they had detained a couple who “escaped” from a Covid-quarantine hotel. The arrests were made on a plane in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport just before it departed to Spain on Sunday. The Spanish man and Portuguese woman were later handed over to the country’s health service.

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The Netherlands is just one of many countries to tighten restrictions.

The United States’ top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, said he would not be surprised if the new strain is already in the US too. “We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility… it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” he said on NBC television.

Tourist-dependent Thailand, which only recently began loosening border restrictions, announced a ban on visitors from eight African counties.

Sri Lanka, Singapore and the Maldives also announced a tightening of restrictions as fears escalated. At Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia yesterday one traveller was taking no chances, dressed in a full PPE suit.

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