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2 US military bases in Japan locked down after coronavirus outbreak

Tokyo, July 12 (efe-epa).- Two United States Marine bases on the Japanese island of Okinawa have been put on lockdown after 61 coronavirus infections were detected there, authorities said.

The cases were confirmed between Tuesday and Saturday at the Futenma and Camp Hansen bases on the archipelago of Okinawa in southwestern Japan, where the majority of US troops are concentrated in the Asian country.

Lieutenant General Stacy Clardy, commander of the III Marine Expeditionary Force and chief of the US forces in Okinawa, spoke on phone to Governor Denny Tamaki about the situation, according to prefectural government officials cited by Kyodo news.

The Marine Corps said there were “two localized clusters of individuals who tested positive for the virus” and that all infected persons were isolated.

Governor Tamaki said he was “shocked” by the US forces report on the new infections and stated that he had “strong doubts about the measures (taken by the troops) to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Tamaki said some members of the US military personnel held parties in downtown areas and beaches to commemorate the celebration of Independence Day on July 4 and asked the participants to visit a doctor if they felt unwell.

The Kadena US Air Base and the Camp McTureous facilities, also in Okinawa, have also detected coronavirus infections, according to local authorities.

The Okinawa prefecture, in the south-west of the country, has recorded 148 cases of coronavirus, excluding those of the US military personnel.

The spike in the number of infections comes amid an easing of restrictions in Japan since the state of emergency was in place between April 7 and May 25.

Okinawa Prefecture hosts more than half of the almost 48,000 troops that the US maintains in Japan, as well as 70 percent of the US military facilities in the country.

The archipelago last month held low-key events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the fierce battle between the US and Japan during the Second World War, which claimed some 200,000 lives, half of them civilians.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has made plans to relocate one of the biggest US bases in the area to Nago city in Henoko Bay, in a less populated area, but also within Okinawa Prefecture.

Okinawan authorities took the case to several courts to try to overturn the project with legal arguments based because it posed a threat to the area’s environment and might prove to be detrimental to the local population, but Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in Tokyo’s favor in 2016.

A majority of citizens of Okinawa are opposed to the relocation of the Futenma base from its present location and have asked that it be moved outside its territory.

The political bloc opposed to the relocation retained a majority in the prefectural assembly elections held earlier this month. EFE-EPA

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