TOKYO – Japan banned on Wednesday the entry to the country of travelers from the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, an extension of the restrictions it already imposed amid an ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Authorities will prevent all people who have visited Zhejiang in the past 14 days and Chinese citizens with passports issued in that province from entering Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a Wednesday cabinet meeting.
The measure will become effective Thursday and follows an earlier decision by the government to ban travelers who had visited China’s Hubei province in the preceding two weeks or whose passports were issued in that region.
Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, is the epicenter of the new coronavirus. The World Health Organization on Tuesday officially named the disease COVID-19, while the virus which causes it has been called SARS-CoV-2 (changed from its provisional name 2019-nCoV) by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.
Abe said that the situation was changing rapidly and the number of infected people and the spread of the disease was growing, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
He added that it was necessary to take swift, extensive border measures due to the potential entry of more travelers to Japan in coming days.
More than 30 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in Japan to date with 174 infections aboard a quarantined cruise ship that is moored at Yokohama port, south of Tokyo.
The approximately 3,600 passengers and crew members of the Diamond Princess have been quarantined on the ship since Feb. 3 and are expected to be kept there through Feb. 19, with a view to preventing new infections.
Only those who have tested positive for the virus have been taken to hospital.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference in Geneva that the name change was to avoid that the disease be linked to specific people, places or animals, as is mandated to avoid stigma.
The outbreak is thought to have originated in fish markets in Wuhan and has already claimed 1,113 lives in China, including a daily record on Monday with 108 fatalities.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are in many cases similar to those of a cold, but may be accompanied by fever, fatigue, dry cough and dyspnea (shortness of breath).