Coronavirus counts in Japan remain high as government expands emergency declaration
By JOSEPH DITZLER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 13, 2021
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TOKYO — Another seven of Japan’s prefectures, including the center of the main island of Honshu, fell under an emergency declaration Thursday aimed at stifling a record-breaking coronavirus surge.
The U.S. military, which has more than seven installations across the country’s main islands, as of 6 p.m. Wednesday reported 12 people recently infected with the virus, including two at a Defense Department elementary school at Yokosuka Naval Base.
U.S. Forces Korea reported 10 new infections Tuesday and Wednesday, most of them at a base in Seoul.
The government coronavirus advisory board on Wednesday approved expanding a week-old state of emergency in and around Tokyo to include Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Aichi, Gifu, Fukuoka and Tochigi prefectures, according to public broadcaster NHK. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made the declaration Wednesday evening.
Among other measures, the declaration urges businesses to close from 8 p.m.-5 a.m. and cease alcohol sales by 7 p.m. but relies on cooperation rather than enforcement power.
Suga declared a one-month emergency Jan. 7 in Tokyo, where U.S. Forces Japan is headquartered, and the surrounding three prefectures that make up the greater metro area, including Kanagawa, where the U.S. Army and Navy headquarters in Japan are located.
U.S. commanders in Japan, from Misawa Air Base in northeastern Honshu to Sasebo Naval Base on the southern island of Kyushu, have fenced off swathes of the country to uniformed and civilian personnel to all but essential travel. Restrictions vary, often widely, depending on the installation.
Japan reported 5,460 new coronavirus patients on Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization. The country peaked at 7,855 new patients on Saturday, the one-day pandemic high in Japan, according to WHO.
In Tokyo, the metropolitan government announced 1,433 people tested positive Wednesday, according to public broadcaster NHK. The city recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus patients on seven of the previous eight days, including three days above 2,000, according to metro government data. It reached its one-day high, 2,447 new patients, on Jan. 7.
At Yokosuka, 35 miles south of central Tokyo, The Sullivans Elementary School reported two people at the school tested positive for COVID-19, the coronavirus respiratory disease, on Tuesday evening, according to a message from Principal Kira Hurst to families and staff.
The two were last in school Monday, she wrote. All four schools at Yokosuka were closed Wednesday and Thursday after “recent positive cases” were discovered, Community Superintendent Ronald Knight Jr. wrote in a message Tuesday. Schools will reopen Jan. 19 after the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
U.S. Army Japan, headquartered at Camp Zama, 25 miles northwest of Yokosuka, reported three people tested positive between Jan. 5 and Monday. Three became ill with COVID-19 symptoms; four were tested during contact tracing. All seven are in quarantine, the Army said in a news release.
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, 500 miles west of Tokyo, reported three new patients in a Facebook post Wednesday. None were in quarantine before their tests.
New cases in South Korea
U.S. Forces Korea had seven new coronavirus cases at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, and one at Camp Humphreys, 55 miles south of the city, according to a Facebook post on Wednesday. The command provided no further details.
The command on Tuesday had two civilians working at Yongsan tested positive the previous day, according to a news release.
One, a South Korean taxi driver, last visited the base on Sunday; the other, a DOD contractor, last visited the base on Jan. 8, according to USFK. Both individuals live in Seoul.
USFK also closed the Dragon Hill Lodge, the Yongsan lodging facility and a popular liberty destination, to leisure travel until 11:59 p.m. Saturday, according to the Tuesday release. The hotel is closed for contact tracing connected to an infected individual.
The command also said it will remain under Health Protection Condition-Charlie, a substantial risk of the virus spreading, until Tuesday at the earliest.