The first case of community transmission of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been reported in Tokyo, the metropolitan government said on Friday, making the capital the last area to confirm the spread of the highly contagious strain.
A male doctor in his 50s, who works at a clinic in the capital and has no recent travel history abroad, has been confirmed to be infected with the variant by an unknown route, he said.
The Tokyo case follows those reported in the western prefectures of Osaka and Kyoto, where new variant cases have also been confirmed amid growing concerns about a possible resurgence of infections.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks at metropolitan government headquarters on December 24, 2021, after confirmation of the first case of community transmission of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the Japanese capital. (Kyodo) == Kyodo
The metropolitan government has classified five people among close contacts of the doctor, hospitalized since Friday last week. The five – two family members and three employees at his clinic – have all tested negative for the virus, he said.
The Tokyo government also confirmed three other variant cases on Friday, apart from the doctor. The three people had previously traveled abroad.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told a press conference that Tokyo will conduct free COVID-19 testing from Saturday. It plans to run 30,000 tests per day for those who want to be tested at 180 sites in the capital next week.
“It is important to strengthen the testing system to allow (infected individuals) to be examined and quarantined early,” Koike said.
According to Koike, the doctor had worn a face mask and face shield at work, and his patients had not come into close contact with him. The metropolitan government is still asking that around 100 clinic employees and its patients be tested for infections.
The doctor has received two doses of the vaccination and is currently showing no symptoms. He had a fever after work Thursday last week and was hospitalized the next day after testing positive for the virus, the metropolitan government said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for caution, asking people to think carefully when planning the New Year’s holidays, usually when people travel to visit relatives.
In Kyoto, the prefectural government said on Friday that three people had been infected with the variant through unknown routes, bringing the total number of cases of community transmission in the western prefecture to four.
Meanwhile, Osaka Prefecture said it had confirmed two new cases of the variant. Cases of community transmission of the variant were first reported in the prefecture on Wednesday.
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