Photo/Illutration Narita International Airport on Dec. 12 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan will reimpose an entry ban on international travelers from Dec. 28 through the end of January to prevent a further spread of a mutated strain of the novel coronavirus.

There have been cases reported in Japan of the fast-spreading variant, which has hit countries such as Britain and South Africa, sparking fresh alarm.

The entry ban could last beyond the initially envisaged period, depending on the proliferation of the new variants, government sources said.

Prior to the suspension that will take effect on Dec. 28, Japan had eased its entry ban to allow international visitors to enter the country for mid- or long-term stays on condition that they self-isolate for two weeks.

After the discovery of more transmissible variants of the virus, entry of those new visitors entering the country on business or nonbusiness purposes will be suspended.

In addition, Japanese nationals and foreign residents in Japan returning from overseas trips must self-isolate for two weeks after entering Japan, as was required before November.

Starting from Dec. 30, Japanese nationals returning from countries where the variant coronavirus was found will be asked to present a certificate stating that they are confirmed free of the virus within 72 hours before departure.

Business travel between Japan and 11 countries and regions, including China and South Korea where the virus is relatively contained, will remain intact.

In a related development, the health ministry announced on Dec. 26 that two people in Tokyo were confirmed with the new variant of the coronavirus that has been reported in Britain, the first time it was discovered in Japan outside of quarantine at airports.

The two are an airline pilot in his 30s who returned from Britain on Dec. 16 and a woman in her 20s who had close contact with him, according to the ministry. The woman has not traveled to Britain.

The pilot was exempt from standard quarantine measures taken at airports as long as his airline placed him under health monitoring.

After experiencing a cough and a headache, he went to a hospital on Dec. 21. The woman did the same on Dec. 23, complaining of a cough, headache and fatigue.

The two were hospitalized on Dec. 24, the ministry said.