• Jiji, Staff report

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Japan has confirmed five cases of infection with a “double mutant” variant of the novel coronavirus so far in the country, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Thursday.

The government is increasingly vigilant against the variant, which has the features of two different coronavirus mutations and is raging in India, as it could trigger a surge in the number of new infections in Japan.

The double mutant variant confirmed in India is thought to be extremely infectious and may have an impact on the effectiveness of vaccines against the coronavirus.

“We’ll take thorough measures to prevent the spread of infections by collecting, evaluating and analyzing information as well as strengthening border control and the surveillance system,” Kato said during a news conference.

He said it is possible to detect the double mutant variant through genomic analysis.

“This virus variant is a variant of interest,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist at the World Health Organization (WHO), during news conference on April 16, pointing out that the double mutant variant confirmed in India is believed to be highly infectious and has an impact on the effect of COVID-19 vaccines.

“What we are doing is working with India and working with countries around the world to make sure that we increase the proportion of sequencing,” said Kerkhove. “But (we are) making sure that this is intelligent sequencing so that we can detect where these variants of interest and these variants of concern are.”

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