US military-linked trio lied about Japan travel plans, then tested positive for COVID-19


Tokyo’s concerns over an outbreak of COVID-19 at US military bases in the country grew after Defense Minister Taro Kono revealed that three people linked to a base in Yamaguchi Prefecture who later tested positive for the virus had lied about their travel plans after entering the country. .

The three, who media said were an American couple in their 40s and their daughter, aged under 10, flew to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport from the United States on Sunday. After taking polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at the airport, they told authorities they would rent a car for their trip to United States Marine Corps Air Force Base Iwakuni, but instead took a commercial flight to Iwakuni Kintaikyo Airport on Monday before test results were available. despite military directives prohibiting them from using public transport.

“It’s an extremely disappointing situation,” Kono said. “We asked the US side to impose a strict sanction and prevent this from happening again.”

The Yamaguchi prefecture government said it was checking those who had close contact with the family during the flight and at airports.

The revelation came ahead of a report on Wednesday that authorities had confirmed another 36 cases of COVID-19 at a US Navy base, Camp Hansen, in Okinawa Prefecture, bringing the total number of cases at military installations to 136. Americans from the island’s prefecture. The Iwakuni base also confirmed another case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, it said in a statement, although it was unrelated to the others.

US military personnel in Japan are exempt from its travel ban on visitors from the United States, which had recorded some 3.8 million COVID-19 cases and 138,000 deaths as of Wednesday, although they face PCR tests if traveling to major international airports, including Haneda. These visitors are also required to remain at airports or facilities designated by quarantine authorities after arrival until their test results are released.

Yamaguchi Governor Tsugumasa Muraoka called the incident “very regrettable”.

“I want people to follow the rules,” he said Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Kono drew attention to “several issues” with the US military’s preventive measures after coronavirus infections were reported at five of its bases in Okinawa Prefecture.

“Several issues with the US military’s preventive measures have been uncovered,” Kono told a news conference, adding that the US side is committed to addressing the issues thoroughly.

Pressed for clarification on the “problems”, Kono did not reveal details. However, reports of US personnel leaving base for beach parties and nightlife tours around US Independence Day on July 4 have raised concern among residents, the governor of ‘Okinawa Denny Tamaki alluding to this as having played a possible role in the outbreak.

Kono said he hopes to make more information public soon.

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