Japan and the US discuss the surge in COVID-19 cases at US military bases

The US Marine Corps has banned military personnel from leaving bases in Okinawa except in urgent cases.

TOKYO-Japan and the United States are exchanging information about cases of coronavirus at US military bases, after an outbreak of the disease caused outrage in Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa.
This was announced on Monday by a senior Japanese official.

Of the 62 people who tested positive for coronavirus detected in Okinawa from July 5 to 12, 39 serve at marine corps air station Futenma, 22 at camp Hansen, and one at camp Kinzer.
Later on Monday, Asahi TV reported that 32 more cases were confirmed at the Futema base.

“We will cooperate on this issue as appropriate,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a media briefing.” Japan and the United States are exchanging information about the previous activity of infected military personnel.”

Okinawa is home to the bulk of the American military contingent in Japan, whose Alliance with Washington is central to its security.

However, many Okinawans associate these bases with a range of problems – from crimes to accidents – and they want the Marines to reduce their presence or leave the island completely.

Okinawa Governor Danny Tamaki, on the weekend, called it “extremely unfortunate” that such a large number of infections occurred in a short time, adding that Okinawans were “shocked” by the news.

“I cannot dismiss serious doubts about the measures that the US military is taking to prevent infections,” he said, adding that there were reports that personnel was leaving the base for beach parties and night clubs around the US Independence Day on July 4.

On the Facebook page for Pacific bases, the Marine Corps said it had banned any departures from stations throughout Okinawa except for urgent cases, such as doctor’s visits, which must be approved by commanders.

“We are trying to limit contacts (with the local population) as much as possible and are trying to track down contacts of infected personnel,” a military spokesman said.

Excluding bases, the number of infected in Okinawa is 148, according to the prefecture’s website. Seven people died.

In total, about 22 thousand cases of the disease have been confirmed in Japan, and about a thousand deaths have been registered.