COVID-19 variant Mu found in Japan

Japan has confirmed its first infections with a new coronavirus variant classified as one of interest by the World Health Organization.

The health ministry says two travelers who tested positive for the new coronavirus at quarantine stations at two airports have been found infected with the Mu variant.

The variant has been found in South America and Europe.

The World Health Organization added the Mu variant to its list of Variants of Interest on Monday.

Health ministry officials studied the genetic makeup of earlier collected samples.

They found that a woman in her 40s who arrived at Narita Airport from the United Arab Emirates in late June and a woman in her 50s who landed at Haneda Airport from Britain in early July were infected with the Mu variant.

The director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Wakita Takaji, called on the need to amass data.

He said various variants are being confirmed, but attention should be paid to ones that are more transmissible than others.

The WHO says the Mu variant has mutations that have the potential to evade immunity provided by vaccines.

The agency says the new variant was first identified in Colombia in January, but has since been confirmed in at least 39 countries.