U.S. military in Japan reports 55 new coronavirus cases as nation plans to extend state of emergency
TOKYO – Faced with a nationwide increase in new cases of coronavirus linked to the delta variant, the Japanese government plans to add eight more prefectures to the 13 already in a state of emergency, according to information published in local media on Wednesday.
The government’s coronavirus panel on Wednesday approved a plan to expand the emergency to Miyagi, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Shiga, Okayama, Hiroshima and Hokkaido, the Asahi newspaper and other media reported. A government task force is expected to formalize the decision on Thursday; the emergency would start on Friday and last until September 12.
The declaration will put 33 of Japan’s 47 prefectures under public health emergencies due to the coronavirus. In the event of a state of emergency, the sale of alcoholic beverages is discouraged, restaurants and bars should close between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. and residents are encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel and working from home, if possible. .
Meanwhile, U.S. military bases in Japan reported 55 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Twenty-seven of those cases are people associated with the Marine Corps in Okinawa, according to a Facebook post on Wednesday by Marine Corps Installations Pacific. The Marines did not provide any further information, but said his new cases were not limited to the military.
The Japanese US military discovered 11 new cases between Aug. 18 and Wednesday, according to a press release. One of them tested positive in an airport test carried out by Japanese officials. Five had fallen ill with symptoms of COVID-19. Two were already in restricted circulation after their recent arrival in Japan and three were isolated as close contacts of another infected person.
In northeastern Japan, Misawa Air Base identified 13 people with COVID-19 between Aug. 17 and Monday, according to a press release from the base on Tuesday. They include fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people, although the base provided no further details.
The commander of Misawa, Col. Jesse Friedel, ordered a limit to gatherings of 20 people or 50% of the capacity of a hall, whichever is less, on or off the base. Masks are mandatory for everyone in gatherings of more than 20 people, physical activity being provided. Only take-out food is allowed in the nearby town of Aomori and Hachinohe.
Three people from Naval Air Facility Atsugi tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday after falling ill, according to a press release from the base. A fourth tested positive in an airport test after arriving in Japan. The base has seven people under observation.
In Tokyo, another 4,228 people tested positive on Wednesday, 1,158 fewer than a week earlier and the third day in a row of new cases trending down, according to NHK and metropolitan government data.
However, the number of critically ill people in the city rose to 277, the highest on record during the pandemic.
Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture – which is home to the headquarters of the US forces in Japan, the US military in Japan, the 5th Air Force and the 7th Fleet – are already under the declaration of emergency until ‘to September 12. Okinawa, home to the IIIe Marine Expeditionary Force; Osaka, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan; and Kyoto.
Okinawa Prefecture on Wednesday reported its highest number of new cases in a day, 809, surpassing the previous record set a week ago, 768, according to the prefectural Department of Public Health and Medical Care. The prefecture claims the highest weekly infection rate in Japan, 312.99 per 100,000 population, according to the department.
Ahead of the expected statement on Friday, Marine Corps Air Base Iwakuni on Wednesday imposed an off-base curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. in neighboring Hiroshima Prefecture for anyone affiliated with the facility. The curfew comes with other new restrictions, according to a post on the air station’s Facebook page.
Once an emergency is declared in Hiroshima, air station personnel who live, work or attend school there will be limited to only essential services outside of their homes.
Stars and Stripes journalists Mari Higa and Jonathan Snyder contributed to this report.