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Japan reports 2,396 new COVID-19 cases as gov't tightens borders amid fears of virus variant

(Xinhua)    09:26, December 29, 2020

TOKYO, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Japan on Monday reported 2,396 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the nation's cumulative total to 223,772, not including those related to a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year.

The Tokyo metropolitan government, meanwhile, confirmed 481 new cases, bringing the caseload of the capital, the hardest hit among all of the country's 47 prefectures, to 57,040 infections.

The daily figure is the highest recorded for a Monday since the outbreak of the pandemic here, the metropolitan government said. The figure on a Monday is usually lower than other days, as many medical facilities are closed on weekends.

With numbers nationwide and in the capital continuing to rise, the Japanese government on Monday suspended entries into the country of non-resident foreign nationals arriving from the majority of the world in a bid to prevent the spread of the new, highly transmissible coronavirus strain.

The entry restrictions will last through the end of January, while Japanese citizens and foreign residents entering Japan from regions where the new strain of the virus has been detected will be required to submit a negative virus test prior to and after arrival in Japan.

Business people and students from a few countries and regions including China and South Korea, however, are exempt from the latest restrictions. Japan and South Korea have a special scheme to ease travel restrictions.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday that his government is responding quickly to deal with the new strains of the virus to protect the people of Japan.

Suga said the new entry restrictions were aimed at protecting "our citizens' lives and livelihoods, by taking measures in advance to forestall the spread of the new virus strain."

First detected in Britain, the new coronavirus variant has since been confirmed in a number of countries.

Japan had slowly begun to open up its borders to international travelers in a bid to help bring badly needed revenue back to the recession-hit economy.

But it has now been forced to take a step backwards and tighten its borders owing to the already heavy strain on the medical system amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases since November.

Among other hard-hit regions around Japan, the western prefecture of Osaka reported 150 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing its tally to 29,077 infections, while Tokyo's neighboring Kanagawa prefecture added 334 new cases to total 19,848.

Aichi Prefecture, meanwhile, reported 122 new cases of the virus to bring its caseload to 15,804, while Saitama Prefecture saw 184 new infections to total 13,421.

In Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, 94 new cases were reported, bringing its cumulative total to 13,055.

A total of 3,338 people have died from the pneumonia-causing virus since the outbreak occurred in Japan.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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