Japan’s Okinawa reports record COVID cases, US forces blamed


Japan’s southern Okinawa prefecture has reported record daily coronavirus infections fueled by the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant largely blamed on US forces stationed there.

Authorities in Okinawa – which hosts 70 percent of US military installations across Japan – stated that the prefecture registered 1,829 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday.

Okinawa’s Governor Denny Tamaki had previously emphasized that he was “furious” about what he described as inadequate infection controls at American military facilities that allowed the variant to spread to the local population.

Japan has since intensified its coronavirus restrictions in three regions that host US military bases, which were forced to also impose stricter measures to curb infection.

While Japan has halted the entry of nearly all foreign travelers into the country since the past November, the American military authorities across Japan move service members in and out of the country under a separate testing and quarantine regime.

Moreover, Japan’s western prefecture of Osaka is also likely to register record daily infections on Saturday surpassing the 3,000 mark, according to local NHK public broadcaster.

The development came a week after the Japanese Foreign Ministry declared that the US military had agreed to tighten COVID-19 restrictions at its numerous bases across Japan.

For two weeks starting Monday, the movement of US forces personnel outside base facilities will be restricted to essential activities, said a joint statement issued last Sunday by the Japanese government and US forces in Japan.

The US military in Japan has also agreed to impose mandatory mask-wearing requirements on all personnel, the statement added.

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