Arab News Japan
TOKYO: The governor of Japan’s Okinawa island demanded a top US military commander take tougher prevention measures and more transparency hours after officials were told that more than 60 Marines at two bases have been infected over the past few days.
Thirty-eight of the infected American personnel have been confirmed at the Futenma airbase located in the Ginowan city in the island, and another 23 at Camp Hansen.
Gov. Denny Tamaki, in telephone talks late Saturday with Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, demanded the US military increase disease prevention measures to maximum levels, stop sending personnel from the mainland US to Okinawa and seal the bases, as well as provide more transparency.
“Okinawans are shocked by what we were told (by the US military),” Tamaki told a news conference Saturday. “It is extremely regrettable that the infections are rapidly spreading among US personnel when we Okinawans are doing our utmost to contain the infections.”
“We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken adequate disease prevention measures,” he added.
Tamaki said he wants more talks with the US military. Okinawan officials also asked the Japanese government to pressure the US side to provide details including the number of cases, seal off Futenma and Camp Hansen, and step up preventive measures.
Adding to their concern is quarantining of an unidentified number of American service members arriving from the mainland U.S. for ongoing staff rotations at an off-base hotel due to shortage of space on base, officials said.
The Marines said in a statement Friday that the troops were taking additional protective measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus and were restricting off-base activities. The statement said measures are “to protect our forces, our families, and the local community,” without providing details on the infections.
The Marine Corps Installations Pacific said on its Facebook page on Saturday that “this week, the Marine Corps experienced two localized clusters of individuals who tested positive for the virus.” It said those who tested positive were in isolation.
The outbreak of cases occurring within the bases have been identified as a “cluster” of coronavirus infections by Okinawa Times, in a July 11 report.
Large barbeque parties were held in the central areas of the prefecture last month, which US military personnel and Japanese people had attended.
Sources familiar with the matter also reported that the US military personnel who participated in the events are isolated in quarantine.
Some Japanese lawmakers demanded that US military personnel entering Japan undergo quarantine under Japanese domestic laws as part of preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19 infections.