SAPPORO -- Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido has confirmed its first suspected coronavirus Delta variant case, the government of this city announced on June 29.
A man in his 40s living in Sapporo's Chuo Ward is suspected to have contracted the Delta mutant strain, which was first detected in India and is said to be more transmissible than the conventional COVID-19 strain.
According to the city, the man developed symptoms on June 19. But as his symptoms are minor, he has been recuperating at home without being hospitalized. His close contacts are limited to his family members living with him, who all tested negative for the virus.
While the man did not use facilities where he could have come in contact with a large number of people, he had visited a local government in western Japan's Kansai region in mid-June. Cases of infections with the Delta variant have been reported in the Kansai region.
"It is highly likely that the man was infected (with the Delta variant) outside of Hokkaido," said Ryo Yamaguchi, manager in charge of infectious diseases at the Sapporo Municipal Government.
The city has conducted polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the Delta variant on roughly 60% of individuals infected with the coronavirus. Yamaguchi commented, "I assume that the Delta variant will spread to a certain extent. We'd like to contain the strain at an early stage, and raise the testing rate to understand the situation our city faces."
The Delta variant has also been spreading in Britain, where the domestic vaccination drive has been progressing much faster than in Japan. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) forecasts that the Delta strain is highly likely to spread among younger generations who are yet to receive vaccinations, and that cases of the variant may account for 90% of new infections in European Union member states by the end of August.
According to an estimate by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's expert panel, the Delta variant's effective reproduction number -- or the average number of people that can be infected by one virus carrier -- is 1.95 times that of the conventional coronavirus strain, raising concern over the variant's high infectivity.
(Japanese original by Junichi Tsuchiya, Hokkaido News Department)