Covid-19 mutation that can reduce vaccine protection detected in Tokyo

TOKYO: Around 70 per cent of coronavirus patients tested at a Tokyo hospital last month carried a mutation known for reducing vaccine protection, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said yesterday.

The E484K mutation, nicknamed "Eek" by some scientists, was found in 10 out of 14 people who tested positive for the virus at Tokyo Medical and Dental University Medical Hospital in March, the report said.

For the two months through March, 12 of 36 Covid-19 patients carried the mutation, with none of them having recently travelled abroad or reporting contact with people who had, it said.

Ahead of the summer Olympics scheduled to begin in July, Japan is grappling with a new wave of infections.

Health experts are particularly concerned about the spread of mutant strains.

Large-scale vaccinations of the general population have not yet begun.

Yesterday, 355 new infections were reported in Tokyo, although that is still well below the peak of over 2,500 in January. In Osaka, 593 cases were reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said yesterday that he would expand emergency measures as needed to contain the infections.

Mr Suga, asked on a Fuji TV programme if Tokyo might be added to a list of areas including the western metropolis of Osaka set to come under lockdown measures from today, said: "All possibilities are being considered. It doesn't matter specifically where, we will act without hesitation if needed." - REUTERS