91 Japanese infected with new, mutant coronavirus strain

Japan confirmed a new variant of the coronavirus, and an infection cluster emerged at a Tokyo immigration facility, Reuters reports.

The new variant has been found in 91 patients in the Kanto area of eastern Japan and in 2 cases at airports, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters on Friday.

“It may be more contagious than conventional strains, and if it continues to spread domestically, it could lead to a rapid rise in cases,” Kato said.

The new strain appears to have originated overseas but is different from other types that have been found sporadically in Japan, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. It has the E484K mutation on the spike protein of the virus that has been found in other variants, which may undermine the effectiveness of vaccines.

Japan has reported 151 patients with variants from Britain, South Africa and Brazil, according to the health ministry. It has had more than 400,000 infections with 7,194 fatalities.

Meanwhile, 5 staff and 39 foreign detainees at a Tokyo immigration facility have tested positive for the coronavirus disease.

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