A New Coronavirus Variant Identified in Japan

A third coronavirus variant has been found in four people who traveled to Japan from Brazil.

A station staff makes an announcement near the gate. Japan declared the state of emergency in Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures on Thursday, marking the country’s second soft lockdown after the first emergency was declared in April 2020. (Source: Getty Images)


On Sunday, Jan. 6, Japan’s health ministry confirmed a third variant of the novel coronavirus was detected in four travelers who arrived in Japan from Brazil’s Amazonas state. This strain was said to differ from the first variants found in South Africa and Britain that initiated the rise of cases in those locations.


The NIID stated that it is, at the time, difficult to identify how infectious this new strain is, along with the effectiveness of vaccines against it.



The WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the agency had been alerted of the new mutation found in Japan. Ghebreyesus said this new strain is very “problematic,” as hospitals are already under great pressure.


“The more the virus spreads, the higher the chance of new changes to the virus,” Ghebreyesus said. 


Two other contagious strains have already been identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa. The rise of these new strains poses a threat to vaccination efforts.


Although there is no definite evidence that the mutations come with more severe and dangerous outcomes, being more transmissible means that more people are likely to be infected. This could lead to more fatalities and serious infections.


Of the four travelers, two were asymptomatic. One was a man in his 40s, and the other was a young woman over the age of 10. The other travelers included a female in her 30s who reported a headache and sore throat and a male between the age of 10 and 19, who recorded a fever.


Japan’s Health Ministry has said that studies are underway to determine the effectiveness of vaccines against the new coronavirus variant. 


On Thursday, January 7, after a record number of COVID-19 cases were reported in Tokyo, Japan declared a state of emergency in the greater Tokyo area. 


“The situation has become increasingly troubling nationwide and we have a strong sense of crisis,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.


According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, Japan has recorded 428,793 COVID-19 cases and 7,715 related deaths (as of Feb 25, 2021).