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Okinawa chief presses U.S. military to take steps to stop COVID-19 infections on base

The two major Okinawa dailies continued coverage of the COVID-19 cluster infection at Camp Hansen, highlighting Governor Tamaki’s teleconference yesterday with the III MEF Commander, Lt. General James Bierman, at which the governor asked the U.S. military not to station additional service members from the U.S. mainland in Okinawa for the time being and not to allow Hansen personnel to leave the installation. According to the dailies, Lt. Gen. Bierman underscored that he will deal with the situation “proactively” so as to stem additional cases. On the governor’s call for a ban on outings, the general was quoted as saying in response: “We’ve been successful in containing infections at relevant units.” As for the request not to accept additional troops, the general said: “We will be looking into what we can do while ensuring that we can fulfill our obligations under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” Regarding Okinawa’s request for a testing system focused on the detection of the Omicron variant, the general noted that discussions are underway between the two governments and that “some sort of an agreement” will be announced in the near future. The governor told the press afterward: “The cluster infection is truly regrettable. It would be intolerable if Japanese base employees were infected by the Omicron variant introduced to Okinawa by U.S. personnel.”


Meanwhile, Ryukyu Shimpo highlighted Hansen service members’ conduct off base, stressing that some of them were seen roaming around the neighborhood apparently without restrictions on Tuesday night. The daily gave top play to the arrest of a Hansen-based Marine on charges of drunken driving in Chatan at midnight Tuesday, saying that the suspect was freed following the admission of the DUI charge. “The incident not only showcased the low morale among personnel but also raised doubts about the effectiveness of restrictions on conduct and of infection prevention protocols,” the daily said. “The U.S. military should become aware that local people are greatly alarmed by the infections and that distrust of the U.S. military is surging,” according to a prefectural government source.   

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