Current quarantine won’t prevent Omicron Variant! A fundamental mistake pointed out by a doctor | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Current quarantine won’t prevent Omicron Variant! A fundamental mistake pointed out by a doctor

Kumiko Kato, who returned to Haneda Airport from a business trip to the U.S. just before the arrival of the Omicron Variant, reports on her experience.

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Monitoring by the “monitoring app” starts the day after returning home. If you leave the waiting area, for example, to go to a convenience store to buy food, you will receive a warning that you have violated your pledge.

Returning to Japan just five days before the Omicron stock landed…

The author left Haneda Airport on October 27 and headed for Los Angeles via Seattle.
After covering automobile-related issues in Los Angeles (LA) and Las Vegas, I returned to Japan on November 25 via New York, LA, (Minneapolis, Detroit) and Haneda.

I would like to know what documents and inspections are required for returning to Japan, and what procedures are required after arriving at Haneda Airport to be allowed to enter the country. I would like to write about the 14-day waiting period after I arrived in Japan, and the days when I was monitored by the app.

First of all, I needed the following items when I returned to Japan from the U.S.
1. Proof of vaccination issued by the local government (in principle, obtained in Japan)
2. Negative test results from a test taken 72 hours prior to departure from the U.S. (specific forms are available)
3. A written pledge (given on the plane on the way back).

Of these, the one to be obtained in the U.S. is No. 2, the negative certificate, which I obtained in New York two days before my departure. The cost of the test was $175. I received the result by e-mail the next morning.

The results were sent to me by e-mail the next morning, and I went through the check-in procedures at the Delta Air Lines counter at LAX. As soon as I boarded the plane to Japan, I was given a customs declaration form and a written pledge. The pledge included a lot of items, such as a place to stay for 14 days (at home or at a hotel I booked), not to use public transportation for transportation, and to respond to daily calls via MY SOS, a so-called “behavior monitoring app” (2-3 times a day location check and 1 video call a day). I was also asked to fill out a form for my legal representative.

The flight to the US was empty, but the flight back was even more so. The flight home was even more empty, and even though I was flying economy, I had a really comfortable trip. But! The moment we arrived at Haneda Airport and got off the plane, such a comfortable flight suddenly turned into a “stuffy” atmosphere. Of course, I was prepared for this, but…

Arrival → inspection area → document screening

As soon as I got off the plane, I saw a sign saying “COVID-19 TESTING” and was led to the inspection area by the airport staff. It was a mandatory inspection, so of course there was no charge. All the passengers who got off the plane were tested for COVID-19 here first.

There is a restroom downstairs, so it’s best to use it here. After this, there are several restrooms up to the inspection point, but they are all sealed with yellow tape and are not allowed to be used. It’s a long walk from the airport to the inspection point, so you should go to the restroom as soon as you get off the plane.

It is a long walk to the inspection area, so you should go to the restroom as soon as you get off the plane. In other words, the “moving sidewalks” are stationary and cannot be used. When I was heading to the inspection area, I saw three foreign men who had finished their inspection walking in the opposite direction of the normal direction on the stationary “moving sidewalk” to the place where they were waiting for their test results. This is a situation that increases the risk of infection, as the possibility of airborne transmission of the Omicron Variant is not zero.

The first step in the process of entering the country is the document screening. Along with your passport, you will be asked to provide a written pledge, a negative PCR test certificate from the U.S., and a certificate of completion of two vaccinations obtained in Japan.

In one case, it took about 11 hours to get to the quarantine area in Narita.

Once you get the OK, the next step is the COVID-19 test. As soon as you enter the testing area, you are given a saliva collection kit. Since July of last year, the PCR test has been replaced by the quantitative antigen test, which gives quicker results. I had just gotten off the plane, so my mouth was dry, and it was hard to collect saliva. After a few times, I finally got the OK. Since water intake is strictly forbidden due to lack of saliva, if saliva cannot be collected by any means, the mucous membrane of the nose will be collected, but this will result in a slightly longer test.

Once the saliva collection is complete, the next step is to install and learn how to use “MySOS”, also known as the “monitoring app”, which will basically be used to remotely monitor your current location and whether you are in the waiting area during the 14-day waiting period. Therefore, a smartphone is a must for everyone. If you don’t have a smartphone, or if you have a smartphone but cannot use the MySOS app, you will be forced to rent a smartphone for 15,000 yen for 14 days. Since there is only one company that can rent a phone in the restricted area, it is practically impossible to find a cheaper company.

If you have elderly family members or children who do not have a smartphone, it would be a good idea to prepare a device such as your old iPhone. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can also use a tablet such as an iPad as long as the app works (but in reality, you need to carry it with you at all times or keep it near you, so the smaller the better). After setting up the app, collect the pledge form and move to the place where the test results will be announced.

I waited for about 30 to 40 minutes for the test results to be announced. After receiving a negative result, we finally moved on to the “immigration checkpoint”. I walked down the same corridor I had just walked down, this time on a moving walkway to the immigration checkpoint and baggage claim area. I was relieved to get a negative result, but the immigration officer was cheerful and welcoming, so I felt a little relieved.

It took about two hours to get off the plane and complete all the procedures. In fact, when I heard other people’s stories, some people said it took 3-4 hours, while others said it took half a day. Recently, some people who arrived at Narita Airport stayed for 8 hours until the inspection was over, and it took almost 11 hours before they reached the quarantine area.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare publishes daily “Cases of Violation of Oaths at the Time of Entry. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) publishes the names (in Roman letters), countries of departure, ages, and behavioral histories of “people who have not been contacted for 14 days” for seven days.

Problems pointed out by doctors

When and how does the monitoring by the monitoring app start? In fact, the day you return home is not included in the waiting period, so the 14-day period starts the day after you return home. 2-3 times a day, the app reports your current location (whether you are at the place you registered as the waiting place) and once a day, it makes a video call (whether you are indoors at home or in a hotel, including location information). This includes location information. If you are far away from the location you registered in the location report, you will receive a warning as a “violation of the pledge.

By the way, what kind of “penalty” will be imposed if you are actually away from the waiting area, do not respond to video calls, or do not respond to requests for location information from public health centers, etc.?

This is different for Japanese and foreigners (with status of residence).

(1) For Japanese nationals, names and information that contributes to the prevention of the spread of infection may be made public.
(2) For those with status of residence, names, nationalities, and information contributing to the prevention of the spread of infection may be made public, and they may be subject to procedures for revocation of status of residence and deportation based on the provisions of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) publishes the names, countries of departure, ages, and behavioral histories of violators every day in “Cases of Violations of the Oath of Entrustment,” but only those “who have not been contacted in 14 days” are subject to this law.

To what extent are these measures effective in preventing the spread of infection? Will they be able to stop the spread of the Omicron Variant in Japan?

Dr. Masahiro Kami, director of the Medical Governance Study Group, commented as follows: “This method will not work.

This method will not prevent the introduction of the Omicron Variant into Japan. This is because the MHLW is using antigen testing instead of PCR testing for quarantine. The MHLW has explained that the sensitivity of the latest quantitative antigen test is the same as that of the PCR test, even for asymptomatic infected people.

This is medically incorrect. The “Guideline for Testing for the Pathogenesis of New Coronavirus Infections (COVID-19)” edited by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases states that “the sensitivity is at the same level as that of a simple nucleic acid detection test. In the June 2021 issue of the Information on the Detection of Pathogenic Microorganisms (IASR) published by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, a paper by a research team from the Kobe City Institute of Health Sciences and others was published, presenting data showing that “the detection limit for the antigen quantification method is approximately 500 copies” and arguing that “the possibility of missing patients with low viral load is a concern. The paper discusses the possibility of missing patients with low viral load.

It is clear that the antigen test is not appropriate for quarantine of Omicron Variants, which should not be overlooked. What should be used is a PCR kit such as the one from Thermo Fisher. This kit amplifies several target genes in addition to the S protein. A single PCR can detect the presence of an Omicron Variant. In the UK, using this kind of PCR, we found that the number of Omicron Variants has been increasing in the country since the end of November. Japan should learn from this.”

The quantitative antigen test that the author underwent at Haneda Airport has been used by the Japanese government for airport quarantine since July last year because “the results are quicker,” but according to Dr. Masahiro Kami, it is difficult to detect Omicron Variants. In addition, the airport quarantine system is used for countries subject to mandatory quarantine, as well as for people from the U.S., which is not subject to quarantine, all of whom are quarantined at the same place. Is there a possibility that the quarantine system and procedures in general could be the cause of infection with the Omicron Variant?

Yes, there is a possibility. It is said that the Omicron Variant is highly contagious, and I have heard that the ‘bubble method’ of strict movement and activity restrictions, which was also adopted for the Tokyo Olympics, is being used, but the reality is that many people can meet each other, and many people come into contact with each other in other places as well. The bubble system in the current quarantine system is an empty theory, and it is not effective.

Now, my waiting period will end in a few days. Originally, the waiting period was 14 days, but for those who received two doses of vaccine, the waiting period will end at 23:59 on the 10th day after they take a test (at their own expense) at a place of their choice on the 10th day and submit the results via the app for approval if they are negative.

The waterfront measures change frequently, so please make sure you have the most up-to-date information about the country you are in when you return. We hope that these changes will help minimize the risk of Omicron contamination.

This is the negative test certificate I received 72 hours before leaving the US. I took the test around 7:00 pm and received the results by email the next morning. There are strict rules on the format of the negative certificate that can be used for entering Japan.
  • Reporting and writing by Kumiko Kato Photographed by Hiroto Kato

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