Japan is working to isolate and analyze a new variant of the coronavirus that was discovered in four people who arrived from Brazil, an official from the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.
Japan announced the discovery of the new variant on Sunday, but officials have had difficulty emphasizing that there is still no evidence that it is more transmissible or dangerous than others.
“To further analyze the variant, we must first isolate it,” an official from the Ministry of Health told AFP.
“It’s hard to say right now when we can release the details,” he said, adding that the process could take weeks or months.
The variant was found in two adults and two children who arrived in Japan on January 2 from Brazil.
The Ministry of Health said that one of the four, a man in his forties, had been in hospital with breathing difficulties, while a woman and a male child developed mild symptoms and a female child was asymptomatic.
The World Health Organization said on Monday that it had been notified by Japan of the new variant and warned “the more the virus spreads, the greater the risk of new changes to the virus.”
Restriction of # COVID19 transmission limits the risk of developing new dangerous variants. We must: -Keep physical distance as much as possible -Keep rooms well ventilated- # WearAMask -Keep our hands clean – Cough away from others in your elbow pic.twitter.com/PLZn1RKZ6B
– Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) January 11, 2021
Experts note that viruses mutate regularly, and not all mutations make the disease easier to catch or more serious.
But the discovery of a much more transmissible variant in the UK, and a second strain in South Africa, has raised concerns about whether a vaccine-resistant version could eventually be developed.
Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases has said that there are some similarities between the newly discovered strain and those found in the UK and South Africa.