Japan reports first case of community spread of Omicron

Pedestrians are seen at a shopping district in Osaka
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By Ju-min Park and Sakura Murakami

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan reported on Wednesday its first instance of community spread infection from the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Health minister Shigeyuki Goto said three infections of the Omicron variant in the prefecture of Osaka were a cases of community transfer because the infection route was not clear.

The cases are from the same family and none of the people traveled abroad, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura told a coronavirus policy meeting on Wednesday.

"I believe this counts as a case of community transfer. I think this will become the first in Osaka prefecture, and the first in the country," Yoshimura said.

As Omicron fears grow, the world's third-largest economy has tightened up border restrictions and promised to speed up booster shots.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday said its COVID-19 border controls, some of the strictest in the world, would remain in place for the time being.

Japan has had 1.73 million coronavirus infections and 18,391 deaths since the pandemic began, but the rate of new infections has been falling.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Sakura Murakami; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Gerry Doyle)

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