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Marine Corps bans visits to Hiroshima amid uptick in coronavirus cases there

The ruins of the Hiroshima industrial display center, shattered in 1945 when the American atomic bomb exploded about 1,800 feet overhead.

STARS AND STRIPES

By JAMES BOLINGER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 21, 2020

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — Hiroshima has been declared off-limits to those living and working at MCAS Iwakuni due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the city.

The ban took effect Tuesday morning and applies to all personnel, including service members, Defense Department civilian employees and family members, looking to travel to Hiroshima in their spare time, according to a post Monday on the air station’s official Facebook page.

Hiroshima has recorded new coronavirus cases almost daily since July 1, according to the city’s website. On Monday, it reported four infections.

MCAS Iwakuni personnel who live in Hiroshima are still allowed onto the installation but are asked to take appropriate measures to prevent the virus spreading from the city to the air station.

“If there is something you want to buy that is not essential, please travel outside Hiroshima City to do so,” the post stated. Essential services include work, school, medical appointments, fuel and groceries.

Marines and sailors may drive through Hiroshima but are not permitted to stop unless an emergency develops, the post stated.

Travel to the city via personal vehicles was authorized June 19, following a months-long lockdown during which base residents could only leave the air station for essential tasks.

The new travel ban will impact anyone from the base who planned to visit the Peace Memorial Park for the coming 75th anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima. The attack marked the first use of an atomic bomb and hastened the end of World War II.

The air station made no other leave or liberty policies that affect service members, meaning troops can still travel throughout Honshu, the largest of Japan’s four home islands, as long as they do not use public transportation or visit off-limits areas like Hiroshima and Tokyo.

MCAS Iwakuni reported its first cases of coronavirus last week when a family of three tested positive after arriving in Japan from the U.S., according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.

bolinger.james@stripes.com
Twitter: @bolingerj2004

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