Japan confirms 1st cases of coronavirus variant found in UK

A transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Japan has confirmed its first cases of the new coronavirus variant spreading in Britain, a government official said Friday.

Five people who tested positive for the new strain are under 70 and had travel histories to Britain, the ministry said. Four are asymptomatic.

Two of the five arrived in Haneda airport in Tokyo while the others landed in Kansai airport in Osaka Prefecture, western Japan.

Last weekend, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant of the coronavirus seemed to spread more easily than earlier ones and was moving rapidly through England. But Johnson stressed "there’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness," or that vaccines will be less effective against it.

The United States will now require airline passengers from Britain to get a negative COVID-19 test before their flight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced late Thursday.

The U.S. is the latest country to announce new travel restrictions because of the new variant of the coronavirus that is spreading in Britain and elsewhere.

US requires UK passengers to get negative test

Britain has been under considerable pressure since the word of the new variant of the virus was made public. Some 40 countries imposed travel bans on Britain, leaving the island nation increasingly isolated.

France relaxed its coronavirus-related ban on trucks from Britain on Tuesday after a two-day standoff that had stranded thousands of drivers and raised fears of Christmastime food shortages in the U.K.

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French authorities said delivery drivers could enter by ferry or tunnel provided they showed proof of a negative test for the virus.

But the French restrictions were particularly worrisome, given that Britain relies heavily on its cross-Channel commercial links to the continent for food this time of year.