Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

Okinawa may declare Covid emergency measures as virus spreads from US base

The Japanese government is about to declare a quasi-emergency state of emergency on the southern island of Okinawa, media reports said, after a Covid-19 outbreak traced to US military bases spread to the civilian population.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida could announce the measures this week, Mainichi newspaper said after Okinawa officials reported 225 new cases on Tuesday, including 47 from the Omicron tribe. By comparison, Tokyo registered 151 new infections.

Okinawa’s figures do not include 164 new infections discovered at US bases on the island, bringing the total of US military infections at the latest outbreak to more than 1,000.

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki has publicly criticized US military forces for failing to contain an outbreak last month at a base that quickly spread to other military facilities on the island. The first civilian Omicron case is traced to a local man working on a US base.

In the prefectural capital of Naha, Okinawa, the opening hours of bars and restaurants could soon be restricted. Photo: Issei Kato/Reuters

The emergency measures, including limits on the opening hours of bars and restaurants, would be the first of their kind in Japan since late September, when the government lifted emergency restrictions that had been in place in parts of the country for much of the year.

While cases in Japan are low compared to those in the US, UK and parts of Europe, the number has risen in recent days as evidence of community transmission of the Omicron variant emerged.

Japan reported 1,268 new infections on Tuesday, the first time in three months that the country of 125 million people has more than 1,000 cases a day.

Tamaki told reporters that the island, which houses more than half of the 47,000 US troops in Japan, had entered a “sixth wave” of infections. The 225 virus cases reported Tuesday were the highest in Okinawa in more than three months, Tamaki said, adding that infections at local U.S. bases continued to rise.

The Mainichi said Tamaki had told the chief of staff, Hirokazu Matsuno, that he was considering asking the central government to declare a quasi-emergency state.