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Omicron may have accounted for 84% of Japan's latest coronavirus cases in early Jan.

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walk on a street in Tokyo on Jan. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO -- As much as 84% of Japan's coronavirus infection cases in the week of Jan. 3 to 9 may have been the omicron variant, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced Jan. 13.

    The health ministry's estimate is based on PCR tests for variants conducted by local bodies across the country between Jan. 3 and 9. The omicron variant's community-spread infections have reportedly seen it rapidly replace other types to become the major strain. The ministry revealed the preliminary figures at a coronavirus expert advisory board meeting.

    According to the ministry, the omicron variant has spread so quickly that it made up 16% of infections in the week of Dec. 20 to 26, 2021, and 46% from Dec. 27, 2021, to Jan. 2, 2022. Broken down by prefecture, omicron accounted for 83% of infections in Tokyo, 88% in Osaka, and 100% in eight prefectures: Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Toyama, Shimane, Tokushima, Ehime and Miyazaki.

    As of Jan. 12, a total of 3,155 omicron infections were confirmed in Japan. Among these cases, 1,384 were found at airport quarantine and other border controls, and 1,771 were suspected community infections because the individuals had no recent history of overseas travel and their infection routes were unknown.

    The omicron variant was first recognized in South Africa in November 2021. Japan's first infection with the strain was found late that November, and its first community infection was confirmed in Osaka Prefecture on Dec. 22, 2021.

    (Japanese original by Hidenori Yazawa, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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