- The Japanese authorities say they are “shocked” after a significant coronavirus outbreak at two US naval bases in the country.
- 61 Marines have been infected with the virus in the past few days, spread across two bases in Okinawa Prefecture, which has approximately 26,000 US service employees.
- “We now have strong doubts that the U.S. military has taken appropriate disease prevention measures,” Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki said at a press conference.
- As of July 10, Okinawa had only around 150 confirmed coronavirus cases, although it is unclear whether the total of 61 infected U.S. Marines is included.
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The Japanese authorities are asking the United States for large-scale responses to a coronavirus outbreak among Marines based in the country̵
According to the Guardian newspaper, 61 Marines have been infected in the past few days with the virus, which extends to two bases in the archipelago – which has long been a US military stronghold in the Eastern Pacific.
38 of the reported cases are at Futenma Marine Air Station. Another 23 occurred at Camp Hansen, a base in which around 6,000 U.S. Marines are stationed.
“It is extremely unfortunate that infections among US workers spread quickly as we do the best we can to contain the infections,” Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki said at a press conference, the Guardian said.
“Okinawans are shocked by what we were told,” he added. “We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken appropriate disease prevention measures.”
Tamaki is half American and was born to a father of the United States military and a Japanese mother. He is the first American-Asian to take a seat in the Japanese House of Representatives.
It has not been known exactly how many U.S. service agents have signed on to COVID-19, but the numbers were released publicly after significant pressure from Tamaki on the U.S. authorities, the Associated Press said.
Previously, the US Marine Corps vaguely referred to two “localized clusters” of infections without specifying an exact number of cases.
“After months of no confirmed COVID-19 infections on Okinawa, the Marine Corps saw two localized groups of people who tested positive for the virus this week,” said a post on Marine Corps Installations Pacific’s official Facebook page.
All infected are isolated, the site added.
According to the Japanese news agency Nippon, Okinawa Prefecture reported 145 cases of the virus with seven deaths.
News of the Marines outbreak is coming home as US fighting is fighting new or near-record-breaking new cases of the virus virtually daily and remains the global center of the pandemic.
The United States reported more than 66,000 new cases of the virus on Saturday. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is the biggest increase in a day.
Okinawa’s connection to the U.S. military is based on the Allied invasion in 1945 in the final months of World War II. After the beginning of an invasion in April 1945, more than 100,000 people were killed in the almost two-month fighting on Okinawa Island, the prefecture’s largest island.
In June, Japan and the United States celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa, one of the last battles of the war, and ended six weeks before the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.