Japan calls on US to impose restrictions on US military bases over Covid-19 concerns

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Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi meets the press in Tokyo on January 6, 2022, after asking U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in telephone interviews to impose curfews on U.S. bases in Japan due to ‘a recent wave of coronavirus infections among U.S. military personnel. (Kyodo News / Getty Images)

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has called on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to impose restrictions on US military bases in Japan due to an increase in Covid-19 infections among US military personnel.

In a phone call Thursday, Hayashi urged Blinken to introduce tougher coronavirus measures to “alleviate local anxiety among the Japanese public,” the Japanese government said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the governor of Okinawa blasted the US military for failing to contain the spread of the coronavirus in Japan’s southernmost prefecture.

According to data from the Okinawa government on Wednesday, more than 800 U.S. military personnel were in isolation after recently testing positive in the prefecture.

Rising cases: Okinawa reported 623 new infections on Wednesday, a significant jump from 225 the day before. This brings the total number of active cases in the local prefecture population to over 1,200.

Meanwhile, nationwide new Covid-19 cases surpassed 2,000 for the first time in three months on Wednesday – the highest number since September 26, according to a tally from Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

Considering the restrictions: The Okinawa prefectural government has said it will consider implementing a near-state of emergency to contain the virus, forcing bars and restaurants to close early. The government will make a final decision at a task force meeting on Thursday.

Okinawa on Tuesday raised its alert level to 2 on its five-step scale throughout the prefecture, asking people to avoid crowded areas and limit private gatherings to four people for no more than two hours, said a prefectural official at CNN.

According to the Japanese government, Blinken has asserted that the health and safety of US forces in Japan and the local population is very important to the United States. He is committed to doing everything possible to curb the spread of infections.

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