Asia - Pacific

Japan blames US forces for surge in virus cases

Foreign Minister Hayashi says infection situation at US military bases ‘one of factors behind spread of virus’

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 13.01.2022
Japan blames US forces for surge in virus cases

ISTANBUL

Japan on Thursday blamed the US forces deployed in the country for a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

“We cannot deny the possibility that the infection situation in the facilities of US forces is one of the factors behind the spread of the virus in their surrounding areas,” Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club.

“I take it so seriously,” Hayashi said, according to Tokyo-based Kyodo News.

There are around 50,000 US forces deployed in Japan under a bilateral defense pact. The American soldiers were recently found by Japanese authorities not following the host country’s anti-virus measures, including conducting PCR tests before flying into Japan.

Tokyo has conveyed its displeasure to Washington over the issue.

Hayashi even proposed to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken imposing a curfew on the US military bases in Japan to stop the spread of the virus.

Authorities found few virus clusters among the US bases in Japan.

Japan is witnessing a sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic driven by the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The governors of regions hosting the US military bases, including Okinawa and Yamaguchi provinces, have blamed the US forces for rising cases.

Yamaguchi and Hiroshima provinces in western Japan as well as Okinawa, a southwestern island province, are under a semi-state of emergency since Sunday to stem the spread of the virus.

Japan also extended a ban on foreign arrivals until the end of February.

Meanwhile, the capital Tokyo on Thursday reported over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases, the highest in more than four months.

Japan has reported over 1.7 million coronavirus cases and nearly 18,500 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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