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Japan to ban foreign visitors as Omicron concerns grow globally

  • Japan, Australia try to defend against Omicron infections
  • Asian markets, oil prices are picking up a bit
  • Still unclear if Omicron causes more serious illness – WHO
  • Britain plans G7 health ministers meeting on Monday
  • Biden to provide update on US response

TOKYO / SYDNEY, Nov. 29 (Reuters) – Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, will close its borders to all foreigners, while Australia plans to reopen the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Markets have regained some composure as investors wait for more details on the variant after a free fall last week after news of its emergence raised fears that further restrictions could upend a nascent economic recovery after a two-year pandemic.

Potentially more contagious than previous variants, Omicron, first identified in South Africa, has been found in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands and South Africa.

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It could take “a few days to several weeks” to understand the level of severity of the variant, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which called it a “variant of concern.”

Japan will close its borders to all foreigners from Tuesday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

“We (are taking action) with a strong sense of crisis,” he told reporters earlier, although no Omicron infection has yet been found in Japan.

Australia must review its plans to reopen from December 1 for skilled migrants and students, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, adding that it was “a little too early” to reinstate the two-week hotel quarantine for foreign travelers.

“So we just take one step at a time, get the best information, make calm, sensible decisions,” Morrison told broadcaster Nine News. Read more

A national security panel will meet later today to assess the border easing slated for Wednesday, he added, while state and territory leaders are expected to meet.

Morrison called for calm as the severity, transmissibility and resistance to Omicron’s vaccine had not been determined, echoing the WHO’s remarks. Read more

Omicron’s symptoms have so far been mild and could be treated at home, said a South African doctor, one of the first to suspect a different variant. Read more


Countries ranging from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia have imposed travel restrictions on visitors to southern Africa. Read more

Singapore has postponed the start of vaccinated traffic routes with countries in the Middle East, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, due to their role as “transport nodes” for affected countries, said Singapore. declared his Ministry of Health.

The wealthy Southeast Asian city-state and neighboring Malaysia have reopened their land border, one of the busiest in the world, allowing vaccinated travelers to cross after a closure that lasted for nearly two years. Read more

Britain has announced it will convene an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday.

In the most ambitious effort against the variant, Israel must ban the entry of foreigners and reintroduce anti-terrorism phone tracking technology, he said. Read more

South Africa denounced the measures as unfair and potentially damaging to the economy, saying it was being punished for its scientific ability to identify variants early.

“The travel ban is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

“The only thing that (this) … will do is further harm the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond.”

President Joe Biden will provide an update on the variant and the US response on Monday, the White House said in a statement. Read more

It will take about two weeks to get definitive information on the transmissibility and other characteristics of Omicron, Dr.Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, told Biden, he added.

Fauci believes existing vaccines “are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID,” the White House said.

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Reporting by Elaine Lies in Tokyo, Renju Jose in Sydney, Chen Lin in Singapore and the Reuters offices; Written by Himani Sarkar; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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