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U.S. service members wear masks while relaxing with a video game at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Jan. 21, 2022.

U.S. service members wear masks while relaxing with a video game at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Jan. 21, 2022. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)

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TOKYO – Japan’s capital city confirmed another record-breaking day of new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, an unprecedented wave with no end in sight.

Tokyo confirmed 16,538 newly infected people, the highest one-day count of the pandemic, according to public broadcaster NHK. That record continues a three-day streak in new COVID-19 cases unlike any previous surge in the city.

Nearly 43% of hospital beds set aside for routine COVID-19 patients were full Wednesday, a slight increase over the previous day, according to metro government data. Only 3.5% of 510 beds apportioned for severely ill patients were filled.

Japan also hit a record Wednesday with 71,487 new coronavirus cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Another 34 people died, far off the one-day high of 216 on May 18.

The omicron variant, responsible for most of the cases in this phase of the pandemic, is less virulent than delta, its predecessor, but more easily infects people and has generated huge case numbers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. Forces Japan on Thursday reported 311 new cases of the coronavirus respiratory disease at 16 installations across the country and 16 awaiting confirmation since the previous afternoon. The one-day total was 138 cases higher than Wednesday’s count.

Tokyo confirmed 16,538 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, its highest one-day count of the pandemic.

Tokyo confirmed 16,538 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, its highest one-day count of the pandemic. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

On Okinawa, Kadena Air Base had the day’s high, 69 new cases, followed by the Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen with 46, according to USFJ. Yokosuka Naval Base, homeport of the 7th Fleet south of Tokyo, reported 33. Kadena reported 314 active cases on Wednesday.

Okinawa prefecture said it confirmed another 1,100 new infections Thursday, and 190 in the U.S. military population, according to the prefectural Department of Public Health and Medical Care.

Naval Air Facility Atsugi, about 25 miles southwest of Tokyo, reported 10 new infections Thursday and a total caseload of 54, according to a post on its Facebook page.

Sasebo Naval Base on Kyushu Island reported eight confirmed cases and 240 active cases, according to a post on its Facebook page.

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, south of Hiroshima, also confirmed 10 new cases Wednesday, according to a press release Thursday.

The U.S. military population looked forward to Monday and an end to three weeks of being confined mostly to their installations or their off-base homes. A stay-at-home order begun Jan. 10 has limited U.S. troops, civilian employees and their families to essential trips off-base only.

Commanders on Thursday issued statements aimed at bolstering morale.

“When we fight a war, it takes a whole team. Our ‘war’ has been this pandemic and medical is joining with the fleet to ensure everyone that is in the fight is protected!” said Capt. Carolyn Rice, commander of U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, in a statement emailed by the base to Stars and Stripes on Wednesday.

The naval base reported 179 new COVID-19 cases between Monday and Wednesday, according to USFJ.

At Camp Zama, the headquarters for U.S. Army Japan southwest of Tokyo, garrison commander Col. Christopher Tomlinson announced that some facilities closed temporarily because of COVID-19 would reopen again.

“We understand how those temporary measures this month may have impacted quality of life and our community morale,” he said in a post on the Camp Zama Facebook page. “That's why I'm pleased to announce that because of all that hard work we are starting to see a decline in our COVID cases and an improvement of conditions across our installation.”

Indoor dining facilities, including the food court, Morale Welfare and Recreation facilities and the indoor pool will reopen, Tomlinson said. The youth center will reopen Monday and youth sports will commence in February.

Stars and Stripes reporters Alex Wilson and Mari Higa contributed to this report.

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Joseph Ditzler is a Marine Corps veteran and the Pacific editor for Stars and Stripes. He’s a native of Pennsylvania and has written for newspapers and websites in Alaska, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. He studied journalism at Penn State and international relations at the University of Oklahoma.
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