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Japan’s Okinawa considers COVID emergency amid virus spread from US base

A US navy sailor is screened on arrival from Guam at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. (File photo)

Japan is considering declaring a state of emergency in the southern island of Okinawa, after the region emerged as the epicenter of a new coronavirus surge, with officials saying the virus keeps spreading from US bases.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida could announce the measures this week, Japanese media reported on Wednesday.

The report came after Okinawa officials reported 225 new cases on Tuesday, including 47 of the Omicron variant.

Okinawa, which hosts more than half of the 47,000 US troops based in Japan, entered a “sixth wave” of infections this week.

The latest cases reported in Okinawa do not include the 164 new infections discovered at US bases. That brings the total of US military infections in the latest outbreak to more than 1,000.

The governor of Okinawa, Denny Tamaki, has reportedly told the chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, that he was considering asking the central government to call a state of emergency. Matsuno said that Tokyo hopes to respond quickly to any requests for emergency steps.

If imposed, this would be the first such declaration in Japan since September last year.

The governor denounced the US forces for failing to contain an outbreak at a base last month that quickly spread to other military facilities on the island.

The discoveries of new clusters and Omicron cases among US troops have sparked anger among the island’s residents, who number just under 1.5 million.

The chief cabinet secretary also said Tokyo was asking the US military to make all efforts to contain the outbreak amid rising infections at bases in Okinawa.

Another US military base, in the prefecture of Yamaguchi, in western Japan, reported on Tuesday that 182 people on the base there had tested positive.

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

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