More than 60 US marines based on Japan’s island of Okinawa have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in recent days, but officials say they were only told on Sunday.
The governor of Okinawa has demanded a top US military commander take tougher prevention measures and more transparency, as the exact figures were disclosed only after repeated requests, the AP has reported.
Okinawan officials on Sunday reported a total of 61 cases since 7 July. 38 of them are at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is at the centre of a relocation dispute, and another 23 at Camp Hansen.
They said that US military officials told them the two bases have since been put in lockdown.
Okinawa has had about 150 cases of the coronavirus. In all, Japan has had about 21,000 cases and 1,000 deaths, with Tokyo reporting more than 200 new cases for a third straight day Saturday.
Gov. Denny Tamaki, in telephone talks late Saturday with Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, demanded the U.S military increase disease prevention measures to maximum levels, stop sending personnel from the mainland U.S. 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,” he said.
“We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken adequate disease prevention measure.”
Adding to their concern is quarantining of an unidentified number of American service members arriving from the mainland US for ongoing staff rotations at an off-base hotel due to shortage of space on base, officials said.
The Marines saidthe troops were taking additional protective measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus and were restricting off-base activities, and those who tested positive were in isolation.
Okinawa is home to more than half of about 50,000 American troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact, and the residents are sensitive to US base-related problems.