TOKYO (REUTERS, THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BLOOMBERG) - Japan will ban the entry of non-Japanese people from the United Kingdom from Thursday (Dec 24) following the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain, a top government spokesman said on Wednesday.
More than 40 countries across the world, including many European Union members, shut their borders to Britain on Monday due to fears about the new strain.
"The government will take border control steps flexibly to prevent the spread of the coronavirus within the nation," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference. "We request people to refrain from making short visits to the UK."
The government will ask people including long-term foreign residents to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return from Britain.
From next week, people coming from Britain would be asked to submit a certificate to confirm they had tested negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of their departure.
Mr Kato also said that the government was gathering information and analysing the impact from the coronavirus mutation in the UK and the UK-EU trade talks on Japanese companies.
The Tokyo metropolitan government said on Tuesday that it has confirmed 563 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Tokyo, up 171 cases from the previous day and exceeding 500 for the first time in two days.
As of Wednesday morning, Japan has recorded a cumulative 203,732 cases of Covid-19, with 2,877 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, clinical trials for Moderna's novel coronavirus vaccine will begin in January in Japan, Takeda Pharmaceutical said on Monday.
The US biotech firm's vaccine will be tested on 200 people in planned trials to see if an immune reaction occurs, according to Takeda, which is in charge of the trials and distribution of the drug in Japan.
Arrangements are already being made for the trials with the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry, among others.
Takeda aims to apply for the necessary approval to manufacture and sell the vaccine in Japan. As for when the vaccine will be available in Japan, the company said that it is "still uncertain at this time".
The government has so far agreed to receive supplies of vaccines covering a total of 145 million people from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca.
The Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, which is in charge of the screening process, believes that data from clinical trials conducted in Japan are necessary for the maker to receive approval.
Pfizer and Astrazeneca have already started clinical trials in Japan.
Last Friday, Pfizer filed an application with the health ministry for approval to manufacture and sell its vaccine in Japan.