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Okinawa alarmed by massive cluster infection at Camp Hansen

The two major Okinawa papers gave extensive coverage to the continued rise in COVID-19 cases among community members of Camp Hansen, highlighting Governor Tamaki’s plan today to press the III MEF Commander, Lt. General James Bierman, to prohibit service members from visiting Okinawa from the U.S. mainland for the time being, impose a ban on outings by Hansen community members, and conduct PCR tests for all of them.


The chief representative of the Okinawa chapter of the national base workers union visited the Okinawa Defense Bureau on Monday and called for measures to ensure that military personnel be subject to strict Japanese quarantine protocols. The union official underscored that the SOFA stands in the way of enforcing effective measures to stem coronavirus infections on base, saying that ahead of the detection of initial cases of the cluster infection, union members at Hansen witnessed arriving personnel from overseas roaming around the installation without wearing masks even though they were supposedly in quarantine for two weeks. 


The governor and other local officials are reportedly alarmed by what they view as the “absence of a sense of crisis” among the U.S. military over the rapid spread of the virus at Hansen, with Ryukyu Shimpo claiming that the GOJ also fails to share Okinawa’s concern about the growing outbreak within the U.S. military.


According to the papers, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno told the press yesterday that the GOJ has already asked the U.S. military “strongly” to step up COVID-related restrictions on military members’ activities on and off base. The U.S. side reportedly promised to take measures that will be “compatible with the Japanese government policy” on combating the pandemic.


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