Yokosuka commander warns of ‘hundreds’ quarantined as new Tokyo virus cases top 800
By ERICA EARL AND JOSEPH DITZLER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 17, 2020
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TOKYO – Japan’s capital city reported a record-breaking 822 new coronavirus cases Thursday, a 17% jump above a record set the previous day, according to public broadcaster NHK and metro government data.
South of central Tokyo, the commander of Yokosuka Naval Base said the number of patients there is greater now than ever before during the pandemic.
To forestall the virus’ further spread, Capt. Rich Jarrett imposed new restrictions: gatherings may not exceed five individuals or two family groups, Yokohama is off-limits, the surrounding Kanagawa prefecture is now a high-risk area subject to further restrictions and use of public transportation should be kept to a minimum.
A number of “index” infections resulted when people from the base “willfully disobeyed health protection measures that we established to protect our community,” Jarrett said in a video message Thursday on Facebook.
“These individuals then brought illness to their place of work and to their shipmates they work with,” he said.
Consequently, hundreds of service members and their families will spend the holidays in quarantine, Jarrett said. “This outcome is unacceptable, and it was almost entirely preventable.”
This was an “extremely disappointing lack of discipline,” Command Master Chief Derek Mullenhour said in the same video.
The naval base on Tuesday said 11 new coronavirus cases had appeared since Friday, many of them linked to forbidden activities, such as trips to bars and restaurant dining in Yokohama and Tokyo.
Jarrett did not mention Thursday’s number, but the base reported 43 new patients on Tuesday. So far this month it has reported 52 infections.
Jarrett said he hoped to avoid a return to Health Protection Condition-Charlie, and tougher restrictions on movement and activity that would complicate the base’s mission.
Japan has reported 247 coronavirus deaths since Sunday, surpassing its previous record of 222 deaths within one week, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. military in Japan announced one new infection as of 6 p.m. Thursday.
Misawa Air Base reported one person, who recently arrived in Japan on a commercial flight, tested positive within a day of exiting the mandatory two-week quarantine, according to a Facebook post. The individual was quarantined again, along with two close contacts.
South Korea cases top 1,000
U.S. Forces Korea reported seven new infections, all of them new arrivals to the peninsula between Nov. 30 and Monday.
The command said four of those patients are service members who arrived at Osan Air base via the Patriot Express on Nov. 30, Sunday and Monday.
The others are a service member, a Defense Department civilian employee and one dependent who arrived on commercial flights at Incheon International Airport on Dec. 3 and Saturday.
Five tested positive on their first coronavirus test; the others tested positive on a second test while in quarantine, according to USFK.
South Korea counted 1,014 new cases Wednesday, a second consecutive day above 1,000, according to its Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The rising cases prompted USFK order a return Saturday to Health Protection Condition-Charlie, indicating a substantial risk of the virus spreading.
Only mission-essential workers were expected to report for duty.
Nearly 800 of the new cases were reported from the Seoul metropolitan area, where health officials are alarmed about a looming shortage in hospital capacities, according to The Associated Press.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, in a daily meeting in Seoul, said news reports indicate holiday bookings at hotels and party rooms had increased dramatically.
“The government pleads with the people, one more time, to cancel all the variety of meetings or gatherings for the safety of their loving family members, friends and colleagues at the end of this year and avoid contacting with others,” he said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.