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‘Several’ coronavirus cases detected at US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma base in Okinawa

U.S. Marines with Headquarters & Headquarters Support Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, 1st Marine Air Wing, stand in formation at hanger 546 during a relief and appointment ceremony on MCAS Futenma, Dec. 19, 2017. Sgt. Maj. Jason L. Keppen replaced Sgt. Maj. Jerry D. Taylor as the acting sergeant major for MCAS Futenma. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damion Hatch Jr)

The U.S. Marines in Okinawa said Tuesday that it has detected “several” cases of COVID-19 infections at the contentious U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the prefecture.

“Several SOFA status personnel aboard MCAS Futenma have tested positive for COVID-19,” Marine Corps Installations Pacific said in a statement. “The individuals that have tested positive and their close contacts have been moved into isolation. At this time, the source of exposure is unknown.”

The MCIPAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the exact number of cases.

While the Marines did not release a specific number of infections detected, public broadcaster NHK reported that four cases had been found as of Tuesday evening, citing U.S. military sources in Okinawa.

The Marines said in the statement that a contact tracing team had been enlisted “to determine any additional potential exposures.”

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“We are taking all prudent measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and will continue to communicate with our forces, our families, and our local Okinawan communities openly,” it added.

Okinawa Prefecture, which has registered a total of 142 COVID-19 infections and seven deaths, last reported a case of the deadly virus more than two months ago.

The relocation of the Futenma base, located in densely populated city of Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, has long been a source of friction between locals, the central government and the U.S. military.

Any outbreak would be among only a handful reported among U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan.

In June, the commander of U.S. Forces Japan extended a so-called Public Health Emergency for all of Japan over the coronavirus pandemic. The emergency is due to end on July 14, unless it is renewed. The declaration was first issued on April 15, after an initial order covering only the Kanto region.

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© 2020 the Japan Times