TOKYO – A Japanese governor asked for a statement after dozens of U.S. Marines were infected with the corona virus at two bases on the southern island of Okinawa.
“We find it extremely unfortunate,” said Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki at a press conference on Saturday. “We can’t help but be very concerned about the US military’s infection control measures.”
Governor Tamaki could only say that a “few dozen” virus cases had been found because the US military had not released the exact numbers before calling an immediate conference call with US military officials to discuss the number of infections and what Anti-preventive measures have been taken.
“We also received reports that people related to the US military ventured downtown or attended beach parties before and after the July 4 celebrations,”
The coronavirus outbreaks occurred at the Marine Corps. Air Station Futenma and Camp Hansen said Tamaki.
The Japanese central government has not yet commented.
Okinawa is home to more than half of the approximately 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan under a bilateral security pact, and residents are sensitive to problems with the US base. Many Okinawans have long complained about pollution and noise from US bases.
The Marine Corps Installations Pacific said in an online statement on Saturday that there were “two localized groups of people who tested positive for the virus,” but had not given accurate numbers.
“All employees who tested positive for COVID-19 are isolated,” the statement said. The cleaning teams were dispatched and contact tracking was ongoing.
Local commanders have issued additional “soft shelter-in-place” commands at Camp Hansen and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, it said. This will “limit access to the base and operations to essential personnel” and allow employees to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The news follows an outbreak of an unspecified number of people at Camp Butler, also in Okinawa, earlier this week.
Japan saw an increase in coronavirus cases this week after having managed to keep the double-digit increase in new cases over much of May and June.
Okinawa has about 150 cases of the coronavirus. Overall, Japan has about 21,000 cases and nearly 1,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo and Adela Suliman from London.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.