Defense

US troops’ movement limited in Japan to prevent COVID-19 spread

U.S. troops gather on the USS Wasp where U.S. President Donald Trump will deliver Memorial Day remarks to the troops, at the U.S. Military Base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Associated Press/Eugene Hoshiko

U.S. troops in Japan will be required to stay on base “except when absolutely necessary” starting Monday, as both countries look to curb the spread of COVID-19.

U.S. Forces in Japan and the Japanese government released a joint statement on Sunday announcing that U.S. personnel will only be permitted to move off base for “essential activities” for the next 14 days.

U.S. Forces in Japan is also requiring that all individuals must wear masks when outside of their residences, both on and off base. Additionally, the command will continue to impose strict testing procedures pre- and post-arrival.

“[U.S. Forces, Japan], in consultation with the [Government of Japan], will continuously monitor the COVID-19 situation and make adjustments to these measures as necessary,” the joint statement reads.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday said it will be expected that U.S. soldiers remain on base “except when absolutely necessary,” according to Politico.

The new regulation comes as the world is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, driven in part by the highly transmissible omicron variant. After remaining low throughout November and December, infections started slightly spiking in Japan this month, though the case load remains lower than during previous waves of the pandemic, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

The country on Friday approved new mitigation measures to tame the spread of the new variant in three most affected regions, including earlier closing times for restaurants, alcohol distribution restrictions and limitations on large events, according to The Associated Press.

U.S. Forces in Japan and the Japanese government on Sunday said they are “focused on implementing prudent, appropriate, and medically informed measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19,” pointing to the “extraordinary virulence of the Omicron variant spreading throughout Japan.”

The two entities also said they will share relevant case information and “consult closely” regarding future actions to “manage and minimize” the spread of the virus.

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