US military reports more than 50 new coronavirus patients in Japan and South Korea
By JOSEPH DITZLER AND AYA ICHIHASHI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 23, 2020
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TOKYO — The U.S. military on Monday announced 54 new coronavirus cases in Japan and South Korea that popped up in recent weeks, including 21 over the weekend at an installation in western Tokyo.
Yokota Air Base, where a spike in locally acquired infections began Nov. 13, reported 21 new cases Saturday and Sunday, 19 of them already in quarantine due to contact tracings, according to a base Facebook post. The remaining two are new arrivals to Japan who tested positive at Haneda International Airport and were also quarantined, the base said.
Yokota, the headquarters of U.S. Forces Japan, now has 43 active cases. November hit the base hard, bringing nearly three times more individual cases of the virus than it reported between June and October.
Tokyo, which set a pandemic record last week with three consecutive days of 500-plus new cases, reported 314 newly infected individuals Monday, a relative respite, according to public broadcaster NHK. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 391 cases on Sunday, ending the run of days exceeding 500 cases, according to metro government data.
In western Japan, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, fresh from a mid-month spate of new cases generated locally, had nine people test positive over the weekend, according to news releases from the base Sunday and Monday.
On Monday, the base announced that seven people had been infected through contact with previously infected individuals. All seven were already isolated from the general population, the release said.
Two cases announced Sunday recently arrived at MCAS Iwakuni via government-chartered flights called the Patriot Express. Both tested positive on a test required before exiting two weeks of restricted movement, a form of quarantine required of all new arrivals.
MCAS Iwakuni has reported 23 confirmed coronavirus cases this month, more than three times the number it reported between July and October. Base commander Col. Lance Lewis, citing a parallel increase in the local community around the base, on Thursday ordered limits on contacts anyone affiliated with the base may have with off-base schools and businesses until Nov. 30.
Air station personnel, including civilian employees and family members, are limited to essential services only in the surrounding city, such as medical and dental care and grocery shopping.
Kadena Air Base on Okinawa late Friday reported two individuals tested positive for the coronavirus while in isolation after returning from travel outside Japan. An unspecified number of their contacts are also quarantined, according to a post on the base Facebook page.
In addition, Okinawa prefecture on Monday said the U.S. military reported 10 infections over the weekend: another eight at Kadena and one each at the Marine Corps bases Camp Schwab and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, a public health official told Stars and Stripes by phone.
Kadena typically updates its coronavirus count within days of positive test results. The Marines stopped publicly reporting its new cases in early November.
However, USFJ, in a tally on its website, listed five active cases as of Friday at three Marine bases on Okinawa: two at Camp Foster and one each at Camps Hansen and Schwab and MCAS Futenma.
USFJ listed 104 active cases at all U.S. bases in Japan as of Friday.
Okinawa prefecture reported 16 new cases of its own Monday, the health official said.
U.S. Forces Korea said 22 people tested positive after arriving on the Korean Peninsula over 15 days.
USFK on Monday said the newly identified patients arrived from the United States between Nov. 5 and Friday. Eight service members and three dependents flew into Osan Air Base the Patriot Express on Nov. 8, 9, 12, 15 and Wednesday.
Ten service members and one civilian contractor arrived on commercial flights at Incheon International Airport on Nov. 5, 15, 16, 17, Thursday and Friday, the command reported.
According to USFK, 18 people tested positive before entering quarantine, and four tested positive on their second test. The new cases in South Korea are in isolation at the Army’s Camp Humphreys or Osan Air Base.
South Korea’s Central Disease Control Headquarters on Monday reported 255 new cases throughout the peninsula, including 109 in Seoul, which, like Tokyo, is off-limits to U.S. military personnel except those on official or who reside there.
Authorities in Seoul on Monday announced a tightening of social distancing regulations, including shuttering nightclubs, limiting service house at restaurants and reducing public transportation, according to The Associated Press. The measures, which go into effect on Tuesday, include a ban on public rallies or demonstrations of more than 10 people.
Stars and Stripes reporters Yoo Kyong Chang and Matthew Keeler contributed to this report.