Photo/Illutration Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato at a news conference on Aug. 18 at the prime minister’s office (Koichi Ueda)

The central government will soon start releasing information about cases of the Lambda variant of the novel coronavirus that have been identified in Japan.

Officials currently make public the number of confirmed “variant of concern” cases, based on the National Institute of Infectious Diseases’ definitions. But the Lambda variant has still not appeared on the list.

The government will include Lambda variant cases “in a way that will alleviate public concerns,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference on Aug. 18.

A top health ministry official said the government also plans to release details about variant of concern and “variant of interest” cases, as defined by the World Health Organization.

The WHO has designated the Lambda strain as a variant of interest.

The first case of the Lambda variant in Japan was confirmed on July 20 at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. A woman arriving from Peru for the Tokyo Olympics tested positive on arrival.

But that information was not made public until Aug. 6, when it was revealed following persistent inquiries by news media to the ministry.

Kato said the case was handled “according to the health ministry’s guidelines.”

He added, “But people have various interests and concerns.”

Takaji Wakita, the head of the NIID, said at a news conference on Aug. 18 that the Lambda variant caused a relative majority of infections in Peru, Chile and Ecuador.

“But it is on a declining trend globally,” he said.

He said he does not think the Lambda variant is more transmissible than the Delta variant.

“There are not many travelers from these three countries. Under current circumstances, the risk of spreading the Lambda variant in Japan is very low.”