Photo/Illutration Arriving passengers at Narita International Airport's quarantine station on Nov. 1 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan has confirmed its first case of a new, faster-spreading novel coronavirus variant now sweeping South Africa.

The health ministry on Dec. 28 said a woman in her 30s who arrived at Narita International Airport via Doha on Dec. 19 was found to have contracted the variant when she was tested at the airport’s quarantine station. The woman had not displayed any suspicious symptoms.

The ministry also confirmed that six male and female passengers who arrived at Tokyo's Haneda International Airport from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24 tested positive for a new coronavirus variant detected in Britain, where they had stayed, during testing at the airport’s quarantine station. Their ages varied between 10 and 49, the ministry said.

One of them, a man in his 40s, was running a fever and had a sore throat. The remaining five displayed no symptoms.

Six of the seven passengers are currently recuperating at an accommodation facility, the ministry said.

So far, 15 infection cases of the new coronavirus variants have been confirmed in Japan.

Takaji Wakita, who heads the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said the South African variant is believed to be different from the one found in Britain.

“But there is no data available to tell how strong its infectability is,” Wakita said.