U.S. military bases on the Japanese island of Okinawa have been locked down after 94 personnel have tested positive for Covid-19, alarming Japanese authorities who had thought they had the disease under control on the island, which hadn’t recorded a single coronavirus case from May 1 to July 7.
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The cases emerged at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma, Camp Hansen and Camp Kinza, with three locals diagnosed with Covid-19 in addition to the U.S. cases, according to CNN.
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Joel Carey, commander of Kadena Air Base, the largest U.S. airbase in the Far East, said on July 10 that the cases originated from travel and causes yet to be identified, “indicating the potential of a reemergence of community spread.”
As of Saturday morning, the bases were on lockdown, with inhabitants prohibited from going off-base for recreation or exercising outdoors.
“It is extremely regrettable that the infections are rapidly spreading among U.S. personnel when we Okinawans are doing our utmost to contain the infections,” said Okinawa governor Danny Tamaki at a press conference, according to the Guardian.
Okinawa had just 148 cases since February prior to the outbreak on the bases, and Japan has combated the virus relatively well until a recent surge in new cases in the Tokyo area, where new highs in new cases were reported on two days last week, per the New York Times.
U.S. Marines, their families and U.S. civilians are required to undergo 14 days of quarantine upon arriving on the island.
The U.S. Military presence, which has existed in Okinawa since World War II, has been a source of ire for the locals who complain about their noise, illicit activity and travel accidents—and the fact that about 50% of 55,000 American troops in Japan are housed on the island, reports the New York Times.
“We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken adequate disease prevention measures,” said Tamaki, per the Guardian.
U.S. armed forces have had trouble combating coronavirus. In April, the Navy came under intense scrutiny for a Covid-19 outbreak on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt with 1,000 crew members testing positive for the disease. This, in part, led to the resignation of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly and the dismissal of the ship’s captain Brett Crozier.