Japan asks U.S. troops to remain on their bases after notably robust COVID surges in these areas

Tokyo — Japanese International Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Thursday requested that the U.S. army in Japan keep inside its bases to forestall the additional unfold of COVID-19.

Hayashi stated he spoke on the telephone with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and was promised utmost efforts to make sure folks’s well being. It wasn’t instantly clear if a base curfew could be issued.

Maj. Thomas R. Barger, a U.S. Forces in Japan spokesperson, stated he could not touch upon the request, however {that a} workforce was fastidiously monitoring instances and traits.

Hayashi’s request got here because the U.S. army is promising extra stringent measures to curb the unfold of instances. The brand new measures require all personnel, even when totally vaccinated, to put on masks on base till a 3rd damaging coronavirus check, and reiterate an order for all to put on masks when off base, Barger stated.

U.S. troops in focus  

American forces have come beneath hearth after a spike in coronavirus instances in areas the place they’re based mostly in giant numbers, together with Okinawa and Iwakuni, each in southern Japan.

Tamaki has blamed U.S. troopers for what he known as “the alarming rise” of instances on Okinawa, which has been hit tougher than the remainder of Japan. He promised monetary help for companies that abide by the restrictions.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated he is determined to tighten virus restrictions in Okinawa, Yamaguchi prefecture, the place Iwakuni is situated, and Hiroshima.

“Fast motion is required given the fast unfold of the Omicron variant,” he stated.

The measures heart on lowering the hours that alcohol will be served in eateries and bars and getting ready the well being care system to reply to surging instances. The steps will turn out to be official Friday after Kishida meets with consultants and a report is made to Parliament.

Kishida additionally careworn he strongly supported Hayashi’s request to the U.S. army.

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki despatched a request to Japan’s nationwide authorities earlier within the day for permission to strengthen the prefecture’s anti-virus measures.

COVID spike a rising trigger for concern  

A day by day report of 981 folks examined constructive for COVID-19 in Okinawa on Thursday. In December, there have been zero new instances on some days.

“If all of us work collectively, we hope instances will come down,” Tamaki instructed reporters.

Japan has by no means had a lockdown, however measures have periodically been taken to limit folks’s actions, corresponding to requesting shops and eating places to shut early or serve fewer folks. Such measures have been lifted in September.

Yamaguchi prefecture additionally despatched a request to the nationwide authorities to strengthen anti-virus measures after it confirmed a report 181 day by day COVID instances. Yamaguchi prefectural officers suspect the sickness unfold from U.S. troopers and Japanese army personnel who work on Iwakuni.

Circumstances are steadily rising all through Japan, together with in Tokyo, which reported 641 new instances Thursday, up from 390 the day before today. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has to date been reluctant to order restrictive measures.

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