Japan has banned the entry of most new foreign arrivals into the country until the end of January amid fears of the spread of a new, more easily transmissible coronavirus variant, reports Eric Johnston. A government official also said Sunday that Japan is developing a GPS-based system to keep track of travelers from overseas in a bid to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

The move comes as the health ministry Sunday reported the eighth case of infection with a coronavirus variant in Japan — and confirmed the first known case of the new strain passing through airport screening undetected. The Tokyo resident has been under self-quarantine since her return from Britain and is now in hospital.

Local media on Saturday also reported that two individuals infected with the mutated form of the virus had been found outside of airport quarantine facilities, while five arrivals with the strain were caught by airport screening.

COVID-19 variant spreading to other countries including Japan | ARIRANG NEWS
COVID-19 variant spreading to other countries including Japan | ARIRANG NEWS

Tokyo reported 708 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, far outpacing the previous Sunday high of 556 cases set just last week, and a day after the capital confirmed a record 949 cases. Japan confirmed a new high of 3,878 coronavirus cases Saturday.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called for caution Friday ahead of the New Year’s holidays, which the government worries could fuel the current resurgence of the virus in Japan, reports Ryusei Takahashi. There were lines at airports and train stations on Saturday as travelers headed to their hometowns or elsewhere for the holidays, Kyodo reports, though less so than usual for this time of year.

Sunday’s (and Saturday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (20 or over): Tokyo 708 (949), Kanagawa 343 (480), Osaka 233 (299), Aichi 216 (265), Saitama 211 (265), Hyogo 165 (175), Fukuoka 137 (160), Chiba 105 (201), Kyoto 94 (135), Hiroshima 85 (108), Hokkaido 85 (161), Gifu 47 (45), Miyagi 39 (56), Gunma 38 (37), Nara 37 (31), Kumamoto 31 (51), Okinawa 30 (36), Nagasaki 29 (19), Tochigi 28 (42), Ibaraki 27 (27), Shiga 25 (49), Shizuoka 24 (31), Fukushima 21 (21), Okayama 21 (28), Nagano 21 (17), Kagoshima 20 (17). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker