United States military personnel on the Japanese island of Okinawa are on a practical lockdown as more than 100 cases of coronavirus have emerged on several US Marine Corps bases in that area.
On Saturday morning, the lock down order was received. It bans almost all off-base movement by several thousands of US military personnel on the bases unless approved by an officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel or above.
The order includes the vital Kadena Air Base, which itself is the hub of US air power in the Pacific. The Navy had taken to restore US military readiness in the region due the face of the worsening pandemic.
The Okinawa prefecture governor’s office said 94 cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed among the personnel at the US Marines Corps’ Air Station Futenma, Camp Hansen and Camp Kinza as of Monday.
Maj. Kenneth Kunze, communications strategy and operations officer for the US Marines in Okinawa, confirmed the numbers provided to the Okinawa government were accurate and said contact tracing was underway on the island to see if there were any more cases. Hundreds of Marines and their family members were being tested, he said.
The US Air Force Brig. Gen. Joel Carey , the commander of Kadena Air Base, passed a statement on Friday saying, “multiple new positive cases” had emerged on US military facilities on the island as well as three cases among the local population.
“The US cases have primarily been Marines assigned to MCAS Futenma and Camp Hansen, and have been a mix of both travel related and those with origins we’ve yet to be able to identify indicating the potential of a reemergence of community spread,” Carey’s statement posted on the base’s website said.
Kunze said any travel-related cases would have come through Kadena on a flight from Seattle, which also stops at US military bases in Yokota and Iwakuni, Japan. But as of Monday afternoon Japan time, no Covid-19 cases had been reported on Kadena.
Kadena bills itself Keystone of the Pacific. Around 18,000 Americans are known to be working on the base. It is the host of US Air Force fighter jets, US Navy reconnaissance planes and its a major hub for US aircraft movement throughout the region, including frequent operations over the South China Sea.