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Tokyo coronavirus cases hit new daily record as Marines on Okinawa report two infections

Pedestrians stroll through the Ometesando area of central Tokyo, May 22, 2020.

AKIFUMI ISHIKAWA/STARS AND STRIPES

By AYA ICHIHASHI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 16, 2020

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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The number of new coronavirus cases confirmed daily in Japan’s capital city reached a record 286 on Thursday, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike at a noon press conference said authorities were still counting, “but today’s new confirmed cases will be around 280,” based on more than 4,000 tests, public broadcaster NHK reported. The previous all-time high – 243 – was reported July 10, according to the metro Tokyo website.

The metro government on Wednesday, after counting 165 new cases, raised its coronavirus health alert to the highest of four levels, according to Japanese media. Koike called on Tokyo citizens to again refrain from nonessential travel and to avoid crowded bars and clubs at night.

Meanwhile, two more cases of coronavirus at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma were reported Thursday to Okinawa prefecture, according to a prefectural health official. That brings the total cases reported to Okinawa by the U.S. military since March to 138.

More than 100 of those cases are tied to a cluster outbreak that surfaced after Fourth of July weekend at MCAS Futenma and Camp Hansen on the southern island prefecture.

Also on Okinawa, an 80-year-old driver for a central-area taxi company that operates on Camp Hansen also tested positive for the virus Thursday, the prefectural health official said by phone.

The driver often picks up fares on base, but the health department is still investigating whether he had contact with an infected passenger, the official said.

Not counting the cases associated with the U.S. military, Okinawa has reported 148 infections and seven deaths as of Wednesday, according to the prefectural website.

The recent surge in military cases, and U.S. efforts to contain the virus’ spread, elicited sharp critiques from Japanese officials.

On Thursday, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki, visiting Defense Minister Taro Kono in Tokyo, demanded that all incoming U.S. military personnel be tested for the coronavirus upon their arrival in Japan, according to a report by JIJI Press. Under the status of forces agreement with Japan, U.S. military personnel are not required to be tested if they fly into Misawa Air Base, Yokota Air Base or Kadena, according to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Earlier this week, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono cited problems with the U.S. military’s effort to contain the coronavirus among its personnel, including a military family that arrived Sunday and tested positive after a commercial flight to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. The family gave false information about their travel plans before leaving Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport for the air base, Kono said.

Kono also cited the U.S. practice, ending this week, of housing military personnel newly arrived on Okinawa in an off-base hotel during their 14-day mandated quarantine.

As of Wednesday, the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base requires that newly arrived personnel test negative for the virus before leaving quarantine, according to a post on the official base Facebook page. The order affects service members, Defense Department civilian employees, contractors and their families.

ichihashi.aya@stripes.com
Twitter: @AyaIchihashi

People wear masks as they walk near Tokyo Tower in central Tokyo, May 28, 2020.
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