The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that Japan had notified it of a new variant of the coronavirus, amid concerns about more infectious strains found in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
“Over the weekend, the WHO was notified by Japan of a new variant of the virus,” Tedros Adhanom Gebreesus, the WHO’s director general, told a news conference.
“The more the virus spreads, the higher the chance of new changes to the virus. In particular, the susceptibility of some variants of the virus seems to increase,” he said.
He did not provide details on whether the variant found in Japan was more contagious. Experts say the new variants are not unexpected because the virus continues to spread so widely, but that they need to be monitored closely.
Bloomberg reported that Japanese authorities said they did not yet know the contagion of the new version and that it was found in four people who arrived from Brazil.
Experts say they have not yet seen evidence that the new variants cause more severe disease or are resistant to vaccines, but they are still studying the problem, and the increased infectivity poses an increased threat to hospitals.
“This can lead to an influx of cases and hospitalizations, which is extremely problematic for health workers and hospitals that are already close to the breaking point,”
He urged people to continue to follow public health measures, such as distancing themselves from others, wearing a mask and washing their hands.
Experts point to strengthening the consistency of the virus so that employees can track new variants and correct.
“The most important thing is to organize the virus effectively so that we know how it is changing and how to react,” Tedros said. “For example, while diagnostics and vaccines still seem effective against the current virus, we may need to change them in the future.”