Just before the Olympics, Tokyo hid the arrival of a deadly new COVID variant

On July 20, three days before the Olympics, Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) reported to an international organization that the highly infectious Lambda variant had been detected for the first time in an airport test in Japan, but did not make the information widely available to the public.

The report was submitted to GISAID, an international influenza virus database that includes COVID-19 and other influenza viruses. According to preliminary findings from experts in South America and Japan, the Lambda form may be more resistant to vaccinations. Despite the lack of scientific evidence on the variation in comparison to more common COVID-19 variants like Delta, its discovery in the airport comes at a time when illnesses in the nation are on the rise. The overall number of verified COVID-19 infections in Japan surpassed one million on Friday, and Lambda's arrival might exacerbate the situation. For the time being, just one verified case appears to exist.

The Japanese government refused to provide specifics, but a researcher at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) informed The Daily Beast that the variation was discovered at an airport checkpoint rather than in the wild. According to the insider, there was a plan to publicize the variant's identification after the Olympics.

New variant discoveries have historically been revealed within three days if they are well-known variations, but it can take up to 11 days, according to the NIID staffer. On January 2, four Brazilian tourists tested positive for the coronavirus. The Ministry of Health decided that it was a novel variety after lab examination and announced it on Jan. 10, a Sunday. When a big novel variation is identified in Japan for the first time, the Minister of Health usually holds a news conference. In December, a Japanese woman arriving at Haneda Airport after a trip to the United Kingdom was found to be negative during an airport screening. She then felt unwell and was tested on Dec. 19 for the virus, which she tested positive for. The health ministry revealed it eight days later, on Dec. 27, after verifying that it was a British variant.

Officials from the government refused to tell The Daily Beast when the first Lambda variant test was conducted, although it has already been 17 days since they informed GISAID of the discovery.

The Daily Beast approached the Ministry of Health, the NIID, and publicly demanded information after seeing the Lambda report on the GISAID website on Wednesday. Before sneaking out the case announcement to the state broadcaster, the ministry initially stonewalled it and then urged it to wait for a call back with further information on Friday.

Last month, a group of researchers from Tokyo University published an unpeer-reviewed article claiming that the Lambda form is highly contagious and shows demonstrable resistance to vaccine-induced immunity. More than 90% of infections in Peru, where the variant was initially found, are now linked to the Lambda variant. The Tokyo University study team feels the variation "has the potential to constitute a danger to human society."