Japan considers wider coronavirus emergency; US naval base cluster grows
By JOSEPH DITZLER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 12, 2021
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TOKYO — The U.S. military in Japan reported 66 new coronavirus infections as of 6 p.m. Tuesday as the Japanese government prepared to expand a state of emergency to three more of its largest cities.
Yokosuka Naval Base, 35 miles south of Tokyo, said 41 people had tested positive for the coronavirus since Friday, according to a Facebook post. The naval base is monitoring 127 individuals with the virus.
All four Defense Department schools at the base will close Wednesday and Thursday following “recent positive cases” there, according to a message to families and staff from Ronald Knight Jr., the community superintendent for Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific East District. Schools will reopen Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
The government of Japan seemed likely Wednesday to extend a state of emergency to three prefectures in the center of the main island, including the cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.
Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, in the Kansai region of central Honshu, asked the central government Monday to declare an emergency as it did Friday for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures, according to Japanese media reports.
Japan reported 6,081 new coronavirus infections Monday, for a pandemic total of 288,818 and 3,850 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 970 newly infected people Tuesday, according to public broadcaster NHK. The number of new daily infections soared with the new year to 2,447 on Thursday, according to metro government data.
U.S. base commanders tightened their coronavirus measures to reflect those of the Japanese communities around them. For U.S. service members, civilian employees and their families in the Tokyo area, the emergency declaration means further restrictions on travel and activities.
The state of emergency, though largely unenforceable by Japanese authorities, nonetheless means, for example, that many businesses must close between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Yokosuka said 11 of its new cases are people who fell ill with symptoms of COVID-19, the coronavirus respiratory disease; nine were discovered during contact tracing; 10 tested positive after recently arriving in Japan; 10 tested positive during medical screenings; and one is a base employee who also fell ill.
Yokosuka Middle School students who rode bus No. 21 were kept home Monday after someone at the school tested positive for the virus, according to a message to families and staff from Principal Stacey Hull-Walsh on Sunday.
Naval Air Facility Atsugi reported three new cases Monday, two who became ill and one a close contact of another person, base spokesman Sam Samuelson said Tuesday. One person tested positive Tuesday who had close contact with another patient, he said.
Yokota Air Base, the headquarters in western Tokyo of U.S. Forces Japan, said 13 individuals tested positive for COVID-19 between Saturday and Tuesday, according to a Facebook post. Six were already quarantined after arriving in Japan from the U.S.; five were also in quarantine after contact with a previously infected person; and two were identified by public health authorities, although the base offered no further information. The base is monitoring 29 patients.
Kadena Air Base on Okinawa had another eight people infected with the coronavirus Monday, including an employee of the Banyan Tree Pizza and Grill at the Schilling Community Center, according to a Facebook post. That person last worked Jan. 5 and was tested Friday after contact with an infected person.
The restaurant was closed for a thorough cleaning, according to the base.
Of the remainder, five had contact with another infected person, one became ill and self-isolated and one was already quarantined after travel outside of Japan, according to the base.
The Marine Corps reported one new coronavirus case Monday at Camp Kinser, Okinawa.