Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the closure is going into effect Tuesday and it’s unclear how long it will remain in effect, while Japanese residents returning home from certain nations will need to quarantine, according to Reuters.
“These are temporary, exceptional measures that we are taking for safety’s sake until there is clearer information about the omicron variant,” Kishida reportedly said.
As of Monday, the omicron variant has not yet been found in Japan, Reuters reports.
Israel also has decided to bar entry to foreigners, and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday.
Despite the global worry, scientists are cautioning that it is still unclear whether omicron is more threatening than the other versions of the virus that has killed more than 5 million people.
And in some parts of the world, authorities were moving in the opposite direction.
In Malaysia, officials went ahead with the partial reopening of a bridge connecting it to the city-state of Singapore. And New Zealand announced it will press ahead with plans to reopen internally after a months-long shutdown, though it is also restricting travel from nine southern African nations.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that she didn’t anticipate any further restrictions and that bars, restaurants and gyms in Auckland can reopen, ending a coronavirus lockdown that began in August.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, meanwhile, told the Associated Press that there is no data yet that suggests the new variant causes more serious illness than previous versions.
Collins echoed several experts in saying the news should make everyone redouble their efforts to use the tools the world already has to combat the effects of the coronavirus, including vaccinations, booster shots and measures such as mask-wearing.