US bases in Japan closed when coronavirus outbreak attributed to July 4 holiday

Tokyo – Officials in Okinawa said Monday that at least 94 US service members at the bases of the Japanese island have tested positive for the new coronavirus, increasing the long-standing tension between the local population and the US military. The increase represents the largest number of cases the US military has reported in Asia since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and local officials are skeptical that US virus containment policies are enough.

More than half of the approximately 50,000 American soldiers in Japan are based in Okinawa. Three American bases in Okinawa have confirmed infections: the United States Marine Corps Air Station, Futenma, Camp Hansen, and Camp Kinser, which stretch along a 25-mile strip in the southern half of the island.

Local reports say the July 4 games held on and off the bases, attended by hundreds, if not thousands of staff and employees, are at the root of the new outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: US Marine Corps Osprey MV-22 aircraft are seen at the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Japan's southernmost island of Okinawa
The U.S. Marine Corps Osprey MV-22 aircraft is seen at the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, on the southernmost island of Japan in Okinawa, on March 24, 2018 .


A blockade is now in place and efforts are underway to trace people who joined the testing celebrations and to trace Japanese citizens who were in close contact with those people and who may also be infected.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki expressed anger over the weekend, saying he was “shocked” by the size of the outbreak and was “concerned that a second wave has hit.”

He also questioned whether the United States was doing enough to stop the spread of the deadly disease on the island.

“I can’t help but feel serious doubts about American measures against infections,” he told reporters.

Staff movements have been restricted and service members and their families have been banned from eating in city restaurants and sponsoring non-essential businesses.

Governor Tamaki, the son of an American father and an Okinawan mother, has also demanded that the US Army raise disease prevention measures to their maximum levels, suspend the sending of service members to Okinawa from the USA And increase transparency with Okinawa prefecture officials on current measures.

Those officials say the United States has not released details about the people already infected.

Okinawans insist they are not anti-American, b …


The increase in coronavirus cases in Okinawa is only getting worse tension between the U.S. Army and the people of the island, a story marked by crimes ranging from assault, rape and murder, which have fueled anti-American sentiment on the island.

Beyond Japan, U.S. forces in Korea on Monday confirmed 11 new cases among U.S. personnel based in South Korea, all recently imported from the United States.