• Kyodo, Jiji, staff report

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The Shizuoka Prefectural Government issued a coronavirus “emergency warning” on Tuesday, a day after three cases of infections with a new variant of the virus were confirmed in the prefecture.

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu announced the warning at a news conference, saying that while the prefectural government still lacked information on the spread of the new variant, “it is necessary to take more thorough prevention measures and further strengthen measures for medical care provision.”

The health ministry said Monday that the mutated strain of COVID-19 first detected in Britain had been confirmed in three people in Japan with no history of visiting the U.K.

The three people, who live in Shizuoka Prefecture, have not had any contact with others who have a history of visiting the U.K., the ministry added.

Infection routes are unknown for two of them, and they are believed to have been infected with the strain through community spread.

The ministry said that two of the patients, a woman in her 20s and a man in his 60s, developed symptoms early this month. The other patient, a woman in her 40s, had close contact with the woman in her 20s.

All three are undergoing care at home and have not had interactions with the public at large.

Health minister Norihisa Tamura said the same day that the government is working to determine if the variant is spreading in the country by collecting samples from infected people inside the prefecture.

“We need to firmly examine the situation,” Tamura told a news conference, while adding there was no evidence at the moment that the variant was spreading in Japan.

The health ministry also said that a man in his 20s in Tokyo, who entered Japan from Britain on Dec. 31, had tested positive for a coronavirus variant.

Japan had confirmed 41 variant cases as of Sunday, not including the Shizuoka cases, and infection routes had been traced for all of them. Experts have said the new variant could be up to 70% more contagious.

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