Over the past week several dozen countries have banned travel to and from the UK – and to a lesser extent South Africa – over reports of variant strains of COVID-19 that appear to be more transmissible (see PrePrint: Estimated Transmissibility & Severity Of UK SARS-CoV-2 Variant – CMMID).
Saudi Arabia went even further on Monday, and closed their borders to all foreign nationals for a week (see Canada, India & Italy Join Growing List Of Countries Banning Travel To/From The UK).
Since then the number of countries reporting the UK variant has increased markedly (see here, here, and here). Japan reported their first 5 known cases yesterday (see Japan MOH Reports 5 Cases Of UK Variant COVID), which has prompted them to up the ante today and ban – starting Dec. 28th – the arrival of all foreign nationals until the end of January.
This English language report from The Japan Times.
Japan to halt new entry of foreign nationals over new virus strain
The Japanese government said Saturday it will ban new entries of all non-Japanese nationals from around the globe in principle from Dec. 28 through the end of January. | KYODO
Dec 27, 2020
The prospect of dealing with a more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 virus is a genuine concern for all countries, but is particularly unnerving to Asian nations which have had to deal primarily with the Asian lineage of the virus, one which is supposedly less transmissible than the D614G mutation that appeared in Europe last February and rapidly become the dominant strain.
For now there are still more questions than answers regarding how much of an increased threat the UK variant (or the lesser known South African variant) truly pose (see CDC: Implications of the Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variant VUI 202012/01).
But assuming these variants do substantially increase the impact of this pandemic, there is still the thorny problem that the UK variant (and possibly the South African variant, as well), appear to have already made significant inroads into dozens of countries around the world.
Which means that border closings may be too little, and too late, to do much good.