US troops at Marine Air Station Futenma are confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19. Image by AP PHOTO

Health

Dozens of US marines in Japan get virus

2020-07-13 00:08:14

Dozens of US marines at two bases on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa have been infected with the coronavirus in what is feared to be a massive outbreak, Okinawa’s governor says, demanding an adequate explanation from the US military.

Governor Denny Tamaki said he could say only that a “few dozen” cases had been found recently because the US military asked that the exact figure not be released.

The outbreaks occurred at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is at the centre of a relocation dispute, and Camp Hansen, Tamaki said.

Local media, citing unnamed sources, said about 60 people had been infected.

“Okinawans are shocked by what we were told (by the US military),” Tamaki told a news conference.

“We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken adequate disease prevention measures.”

Tamaki demanded transparency in the latest development and said he planned to request talks between the US military and Okinawan officials.

He said Okinawan officials also asked the Japanese government to demand that the US provide details including the number of cases, seal off Futenma and Camp Hansen and step up preventive measures on base.

Okinawan officials made similar requests to the US military on Friday in order to address local residents’ concerns, Tamaki said.

The Marines said in a statement on Friday that the troops were taking additional protective measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus and were restricting off-base activities.

The statement said measures are “to protect our forces, our families, and the local community,” without providing details on the infections.

Okinawa is home to more than half of about 50,000 US troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact, and the residents are sensitive to US base-related problems.

Many Okinawans have long complained about pollution, noise and crime related to US bases.

Okinawa has about 150 cases of the coronavirus.

In all, Japan has about 21,000 cases and 1000 deaths, with Tokyo reporting more than 200 new cases for a third straight day on Saturday.