Japanese government demands U.S. soldiers limit going outside, enact effective coronavirus prevention measures

Japanese government demands U.S. soldiers limit going outside, enact effective coronavirus prevention measures

January 7, 2022 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Manabu Saito and Shoehi Tsukazaki


Tokyo – Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on the phone January 6, where he requested that the U.S. military thoroughly strengthen measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including restricting U.S. soldiers from going outside. With the omicron variant rapidly spreading throughout the U.S. military bases in Japan, the level of concern has been raised in all the municipalities that host a base, starting with Okinawa, and the Japanese government is finally pushing for more effective policies inside the U.S. bases.


Starting in May of last year, U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan who have received at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been allowed to go without a mask inside U.S. military bases.


On January 6, the U.S. military command in Japan increased their five-tier “Health Protection Condition Level” (HPCON) by one level up to the third, “Bravo.” From now, the U.S. military will implement the following policies for their personnel: 1. Everyone will be required to wear a mask until they are tested and receive a negative result, 2. Everyone who arrives in Japan must undergo a health inspection, and 3. Everyone must wear a mask when leaving the base.


Meanwhile at Camp Hansen, where they are experiencing community infections, they have been at level Bravo since December 17, however U.S. military personnel have been confirmed outside of the base without masks. Okinawa Prefecture asked both the Japanese and U.S. government to restrict people from leaving the base on December 21, but no steps were taken to make such a restriction.


The January 6 request from Hayashi did not extend to U.S. military personnel living off base, and it seems that additional adjustments to achieve more effective measures may also be requested.

According to the ministry of foreign affairs, in the meeting Blinken said, “’The health and safety of the area’s residents are very important to us. We will take the suggestion to the [U.S.] Department of Defense, and do everything we can to halt the spread of this disease.”


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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