US military on Okinawa tightens coronavirus restrictions as case numbers increase
By JOSEPH DITZLER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 30, 2021
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TOKYO – A cluster of new coronavirus cases the past week at bases on Okinawa prompted the U.S. military on Tuesday to lengthen a list of familiar pandemic restrictions re-imposed a week ago.
U.S. bases in Japan reported 30 new coronavirus patients as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, all but one on Okinawa.
Okinawa prefecture, where most U.S. troops are based, and Tokyo are also reporting higher case numbers, although those numbers pale next to patient tallies in January.
Kadena Air Base cited 20 new cases from the past week, according to a base Facebook post Tuesday. The Marine Corps reported nine new coronavirus patients Tuesday: five at Camp Foster, two at Camp Kinser and one each at Camps Hansen and Courtney, according to a Facebook post by Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo reported one individual tested positive while still in quarantine after recently arriving in Japan from the U.S., according to a base Facebook post.
Okinawa prefecture has seen a spike in new case numbers starting with 30 on March 13 and climbing to 98 on Saturday, according to the prefecture’s COVID-19 website.
Tokyo reported 364 people newly infected with the coronavirus Tuesday, 27 more patients than March 23, according to public broadcaster NHK. For 11 days, new patient numbers in the city are higher than they were seven days earlier, according to metro government data.
The seven-day moving average in Tokyo has increased from 297 on March 18 to 357.7 on Monday, according to government data.
At Kadena, 13 individuals tested positive after becoming ill with symptoms of COVID-19, the coronavirus respiratory disease. The remaining seven were close contacts of a previously infected person, according to the 18th Wing.
One new patient is a Kadena Commissary employee who had no close contacts with service members, Defense Department civilian employees, contractors or family members, according to the wing. The base has reported 42 individuals with COVID-19 in March.
Kadena on Tuesday added outdoor, off-base dining to its week-old prohibition on indoor dining, or even waiting inside a restaurant on a take-out order. The exception is waiting on takeout at malls or food courts.
The wing also added to the list gyms, fitness centers, CrossFit boxes and similar facilities; indoor tourist attractions like aquariums, museums and historical sites; and outdoor tourist attractions with large, densely packed crowds.
Indoor markets with multiple vendors such as flea markets and fish markets, and outdoor markets where social distancing and COVID-19 preventive measures are not possible or practiced are also off-limits. Patronizing hair and nail salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, massage parlors and similar services is also prohibited.
Riding mass transit, with some exceptions, and patronizing arcades and theaters off-base were also put off-limits a week ago.
The Marine Corps also cited rising case numbers to impose similar restrictions March 22 and again Tuesday, according to a Facebook post by Marine Corps Installations Pacific. The Marines had 49 coronavirus patients at four Okinawa camps on Friday, according to U.S. Forces Japan.