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Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki speaks at a press conference at the prefectural government headquarters in Naha, southern Japan, January 2, 2022. The governor has criticized the US military for many cases COVID-19 at its Okinawa bases, citing them as one of the factors behind the spread of coronavirus infections in the prefecture. (Kyodo News / Getty Images)

A local governor in Japan has lambasted the US military for failing to contain the spread of the coronavirus in Okinawa Prefecture, the country’s most southerly, which is home to several US bases.

“I am outraged because the increase in the number of infected people among the American military suggests that their management is not sufficient,” Denny Tamaki, governor of Okinawa prefecture, said Sunday at a press conference.

Okinawa prefecture reported 130 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday – the highest one-day total since September 25 last year, a prefecture official told CNN.

Over the past week, the prefecture recorded an average of 17.37 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, the worst ratio in the country. The official said those figures did not include infections among US military personnel in Okinawa.

Okinawa Prefecture confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant on December 17, 2021 and launched free PCR tests for base employees and citizens of the prefecture shortly after, the official said.

As of January 3, 88 cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed and 112 suspected cases reported, the official said.

According to Okinawa government data, a total of 3,699 U.S. military personnel in Okinawa tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday. U.S. forces last Friday confirmed a record 235 new infections among personnel stationed in Okinawa Prefecture, local government data showed.

Of those tested in Okinawa, about 47% were presumed positive for Omicron, US Forces Japan (USFJ) told CNN in an email.

The Tokyo National Institute of Infectious Diseases performed a genome analysis of Covid-19 cases among U.S. military personnel at Camp Hansen in Okinawa and confirmed that the Omicron variant was found there, according to a statement released Sunday by the Okinawa prefectural government.

However, the Okinawa Prefecture government says U.S. officials have not provided information on the exact number of infections at Omicron.

Tamaki accused U.S. military personnel of spreading the Omicron variant to local communities, and on Sunday renewed her call on U.S. military officials to take strict action to contain the virus.

“Many infected people are still confirmed every day in the US military. We believe that it is important to stop the infection in the US military and that the citizens of the prefecture avoid all contact with them in order to curb the spread of the infection in the prefecture, ”said Tamaki, the governor. Okinawa, during the press conference.

For its part, the USFJ has said it is working to contain the outbreak.

“We take seriously our responsibilities to protect not only our staff, but also the surrounding communities,” said USFJ. “We have placed all staff infected with COVID-19 in isolation and aggressive contact tracing has allowed us to place close contacts in quarantine. “

In response to the increased spread of Covid-19 in Okinawa, the Japanese Maritime Forces reinstated the requirement to wear masks for everyone on base, regardless of vaccination status, on December 23. according to a post on the Marine Corps Community Service website.

However, the mandate does not apply to people who eat or exercise actively, including indoor cardio training, organized athletics, and sports.

The USFJ has said it requires three negative Covid-19 tests for those traveling to Japan and a 14-day “restriction of movement” upon arrival.

Last year, two US Navy bases in Okinawa – including Camp Hansen – were closed and restrictions placed on other bases in the region, according to Kyodo News.

The USFJ has said it will continue to monitor and adjust Covid-19 mitigation measures in cooperation with the Japanese government.


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