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Japan gov't reviewing COVID-19 variant disclosures after lambda announcement delay

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Following the two-week lag between the confirmation of Japan's first case of the lambda coronavirus variant and its announcement, the health ministry is reviewing its disclosure standards, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at an Aug. 18 press conference.

    On July 20, a woman in her 30s who arrived at Tokyo's Haneda Airport was found infected with the coronavirus during quarantine inspections. It was confirmed by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on July 23 that the case was the lambda strain of the virus. The facts were reported by a U.S. news website on Aug. 6.

    Some reports say the infected woman was affiliated with the Tokyo Olympics, and opposition parties are criticizing the late disclosure as a cover-up to prevent the case from impacting holding the Games.

    At the Aug. 18 press conference, Kato said that the Japanese government did not initially disclose the information as the lambda variant is not classified as a "variant of concern," which is currently the standard for disclosure. He explained that government officials had "received inquiries from external parties, and disclosed the information individually."

    After indicating that there were no problems with the way related agencies handled the matter, Kato said, "The Japanese public has a range of interests and concerns regarding the coronavirus. We'd like to reach an early conclusion on the nature of disclosures and relieve people's worries."

    (Japanese original by Akiko Kato, Political News Department)

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