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3 people infected with coronavirus variant in central Japan through unknown source

Takaji Wakita, director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, right, and Takeshi Enami, director of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's Tuberculosis and Infectious Diseases Control Division, speak about patients who contracted a new variant of the novel coronavirus, at the health ministry in Tokyo on Jan. 18, 2021. (Mainichi/Naotsune Umemura)

TOKYO -- A total of three men and women aged between their 20s and 60s and living in the central Japan prefecture of Shizuoka have contracted a new strain of the novel coronavirus, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced on Jan. 18.

    Because the three have not been to the U.K., where the new variant has been found, nor have they had any contact with anyone who had been overseas, it is believed they contracted the virus through community transmission. Such cases are a first in Japan, and authorities are investigating where the source of the infection could have been.

    According to the health ministry, a woman in her 20s and a woman in her 40s, plus a man in his 60s, all living in Shizuoka Prefecture, were confirmed to have the virus variant. The woman in her 20s developed symptoms in early January. The woman in her 40s was in close contact with the younger woman, and developed symptoms a few days later. Neither had come in contact with a large and unspecified number of people, and are currently resting at home. The man in his 60s developed symptoms in early January and is recuperating at home as well.

    The health ministry also announced that a man in his 20s living in Tokyo who returned to Japan from the U.K. on Dec. 31, 2020 had been infected with the new strain of the virus. He developed symptoms on Jan. 2, and was hospitalized at a medical facility in Tokyo on Jan. 7. The ministry says the patient has not had contact with a large and unspecified number of people.

    The ministry announced that at this point, there was no evidence that the new strain of the novel coronavirus had spread regionally. The virus variant that had been confirmed in the U.K. is estimated to have a transmissibility of up to seven times that of the strain with which the world had thus far been contending.

    (Japanese original by Sooryeon Kim, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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