TOYKO: Japan's Defense Ministry tested personnel aboard a Marine Self-Defense Force destroyer on an antipiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia for the novel coronavirus, government sources told Jiji Press on Friday.
The ministry determined the need to ramp up measures against the COVID-19 outbreak, as the MSDF members are on a long-term mission and the working environment on the ship constitutes a closed and crowded place involving close contact with others, which is believed to increase group infection risks, the sources said.
The Defense Ministry conducted polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests on crew aboard the destroyer Onami before it was deployed from the MSDF base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture to the south of Tokyo in late April, according to the sources. The Onami will replace another MSDF vessel currently dispatched for antipiracy measures.
Djibouti, where the SDF has a base for activities in the Middle East, has introduced entry restrictions as part of its efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result, crew aboard MSDF destroyers cannot go ashore unless for being transported to a medical facility in the event that members are found to be infected with the coronavirus.
It is unclear whether Djibouti's medical system can accommodate MSDF patients, so the Japanese government is making efforts to prevent infections among crew members in order to continue the antipiracy operations.