The local government of the central Japan prefecture of Shizuoka on Tuesday issued a virus emergency alert, following the detection a day earlier of three cases of a new coronavirus variant.

On Monday, three people in their 20s to 60s were confirmed to be infected with the virus variant in the prefecture.

None of them had traveled to Britain or had prior contact with people who have recently been to the country, where the new coronavirus variant has rapidly spread.

Governor of Shizuoka Prefecture Heita Kawakatsu said that it was now vital for preventative measures to be taken against transmissions as well as ensure the health care system is strengthened.

“It is necessary to take more thorough infection prevention measures and further strengthen measures for medical care provision,” Kawakatsu was quoted by local media as telling a press conference as he announced the alert.

Image: Xinhua

Kawakatsu said however that the local government was still largely in the dark regarding information on the spread of the virus variant and the routes of transmission.

The cases in the central prefecture marked the first confirmation in Japan of people infected with the new coronavirus variant, although the health mission has, as yet, failed to trace the routes of transmission.

Japan’s Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said that the central government will investigate whether the coronavirus variant, first detected in Britain, is being transmitted elsewhere in the country.

This will be done by collecting samples from those already infected with the variant in the central Japan prefecture, Tamura said.

The new strain is thought by the prefectural government to be a new, highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus responsible for surging new numbers of infections in Britain recently.

Image: Xinhua

“We need to firmly examine the situation,” Tamura told a press briefing on the matter.

Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases began undertaking genomic analysis of samples from people infected with the novel coronavirus to assess the potential spread of the variant, sources with knowledge of the matter said Tuesday.

XINHUA | TOKYO

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