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Japan asks US forces to stay on base amid COVID outbreak

TOKYO (AP) – Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi yesterday asked that the United States (US) military in Japan stay inside its bases to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Hayashi said he spoke on the phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and was promised utmost efforts to ensure people’s health. It was not immediately clear if a base curfew would be issued.

Major Thomas R Barger, a US Forces in Japan spokesperson, said he could not comment on the request, but that a team was carefully monitoring cases and trends.

Hayashi’s request came as the US military is promising more stringent measures to curb spreading cases.

The new measures require all personnel, even when fully vaccinated, to wear masks on base until a third negative coronavirus test, and reiterate an order for all to wear masks when off base, Barger said.

American forces have come under fire after a spike in coronavirus cases in areas where they are based in large numbers, including Okinawa and Iwakuni, both in southern Japan.

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki sent a request to Japan’s national government yesterday for permission for the prefecture to strengthen its anti-virus measures.

A daily record of 981 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Okinawa yesterday.

In December, there were zero new cases on some days.

Entrance gate to the US Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen in Japan. PHOTO: AP
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