Crowds still gathered at the famous Shibuya crossing in central Tokyo on Dec. 20, 2020.

Crowds still gathered at the famous Shibuya crossing in central Tokyo on Dec. 20, 2020. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

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TOKYO – U.S. military bases in Japan and South Korea reported 43 new cases of the coronavirus over the New Year holiday weekend and up to 6 p.m. Monday.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 884 newly infected people, the most reported on a Monday, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday said he may declare an emergency in Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures in order to give their chief executives greater power to combat the virus's spread.

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, 500 miles west of Tokyo, counted another 12 individuals as part of a local outbreak there, according to Facebook posts.

“The past two weeks have shown how quickly COVID spreads across the base and how difficult it can be to stay ahead of a spread,” base commander Col. Lance Lewis wrote in a Facebook post Sunday. COVID-19 is the respiratory disease associated with the coronavirus.

The new cases are due to an “uptick in socializing and general lack of adherence to COVID basics by a small percentage of people,” Lewis wrote.

“Simply put, we lowered our shields over the past few weeks, which resulted in new cases on base,” he wrote.

Lewis ordered all social gatherings, formal and informal, canceled, as well as youth sports until Jan. 25 and other activities. He limited to two the number of families allowed to socialize together, put a ban on base visitors, closed the base clubs and prohibited socializing between residents of different barracks, among other measures. Schools will remain open, he said.

The base reported five new patients Sunday, six on Saturday and one on Friday. All 12 were already in quarantine as close contacts of a previously infected individual, according to the base.

“These individuals tested positive as part of a large-scale testing initiative for those in proximity to previously identified positive cases,” according to the base in each case.

The base in December reported 33 individuals had become infected with the coronavirus.

Sasebo Naval Base on Kyushu reported two individuals tested positive for the virus during a medical screening Thursday, according to a Facebook post Monday. The base has three people with the virus under observation.

On Okinawa, the Marine Corps on Friday reported two new patients at Camp Schwab.

In South Korea, the U.S. military command reported 23 people, all new arrivals to the peninsula, tested positive for the virus between Dec. 16 and Thursday, according to a news release Monday from U.S. Forces Korea.

Four other individuals became infected after having contact with a retiree and his wife who tested positive on Wednesday, according to a release on Saturday from USFK.

The four, another two retired service members and their spouses, tested positive on Thursday, according to USFK. Contact tracing revealed the six had contact with each other on Dec. 25.

One of the couples last visited Camp Humphreys on Wednesday, and the other couple last visited Humphreys on Dec. 23.

Both couples reside in Sangju city and are now in quarantine at Camp Humphreys.

Of the 23 new arrivals, eight service members and one dependent arrived at Osan Air Base on the Patriot Express, a government-chartered flight from the U.S., on Dec.16, 21 and 29. Another nine service members, three dependents, one contractor and one retiree arrived on commercial flights at Incheon International Airport on Dec. 16, 19, 21, 27, 28, 29 and Thursday.

Nine of the new arrivals tested positive on their first mandatory test. Two tested positive while in quarantine, and 12 tested positive on the test required to exit quarantine. All of them are in quarantine at Humphreys and Osan Air Twitter: @JosephDitzler

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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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