Japan on Monday suspended new entries into the country by nonresident foreign nationals arriving from most of the world through the end of January as it seeks to prevent the spread of the new, potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant.

On the positive side, any travelers able to get in amid the pandemic can now catch a train to downtown Tokyo from Narita Airport in train cars reserved specially for them, Keisei Electric Railway has announced. The cars will be disinfected after each run, while adjacent carriages will be kept empty.

The same day, the health ministry reported the first case of a coronavirus variant found in South Africa in the country. South Africa’s health authorities have said the variant might be responsible for a recent surge in infections there. Japan has already seen more than a dozen cases of another variant that is spreading rapidly in Britain.

Japan confirms COVID variant cases and bans new entry from all countries | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
Japan confirms COVID variant cases and bans new entry from all countries | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

Tokyo reported 481 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday as infections continued to climb throughout the country. The figure outpaced the capital’s previous high for a Monday, of 392 cases, set just last week. Seven of Japan’s 47 prefectures were at the worst level on Japan’s four-tier scale for gauging the degree of spread of the virus as of Wednesday, the health ministry said Friday.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan confirmed Monday that the death of Yuichiro Hata, secretary-general for the CDP’s Upper House members, was caused by COVID-19. Hata is the first incumbent Japanese lawmaker to die from the illness.

Monday’s (and Sunday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (20 or over): Tokyo 481 (708), Kanagawa 334 (343), Saitama 184 (211), Chiba 175 (105), Osaka 150 (233), Fukuoka 142 (137), Aichi 122 (216), Hyogo 104 (165), Hokkaido 94 (85), Kyoto 59 (94), Hiroshima 50 (85), Gifu 45 (47), Kumamoto 37 (31), Ibaraki 31 (27), Tochigi 31 (28), Nara 30 (37), Miyagi 28 (39), Gunma 21 (38), Okinawa 21 (30). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker