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A service member buys lunch from a food truck at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Jan. 21, 2022.

A service member buys lunch from a food truck at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Jan. 21, 2022. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)

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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – The word looked for by the U.S. military community in Japan came down Saturday morning: Home confinement to curb the spread of COVID-19 ends 6 a.m. Monday.

U.S. Forces Japan announced the end to restrictions as its community entered a third weekend with travel and activities mostly off-limits beyond their installation’s gates or their own front doors.

“After nearly three weeks of strict restrictions on our SOFA personnel, results have shown a significant decrease in new COVID cases, a significant decrease in cases upon arrival, as well as a substantial decrease in overall COVID numbers for SOFA personnel in Japan,” USFJ said on its Facebook page at 11:25 a.m.

SOFA, the status of forces agreement, outlines the rights and responsibilities of individuals in Japan under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Defense.

A sign reminds service members to wear a mask inside the Samurai Fitness Center at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Jan. 14, 2022.

A sign reminds service members to wear a mask inside the Samurai Fitness Center at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Jan. 14, 2022. (Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

U.S service members, DOD civilians and their families, largely restricted to their installations and off-base homes since Jan. 10, will step back into neighboring communities experiencing record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 infections.

Many of Japan’s most populous prefectures are under their own states of emergency that urge restaurants and bars to close early and halt sales of alcohol and residents to reduce unnecessary travel.

“As we lift this restriction this coming Monday, we will re-align with Japan’s national and local community COVID policies as we continue to meet our priorities to protect the health and well-being of our service members and their families,” USFJ’s announcement said. “Thank you for your continual help and participation in USFJ's COVID mitigation efforts, and continue being mindful of the policies still in effect to keep driving infection numbers down.”

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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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