Japan asks US to impose restrictions on American military bases over Covid-19 concerns 

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has asked US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to impose restrictions on American military bases in Japan due to a rise in Covid-19 infections among US military personnel.

In a phone call Thursday, Hayashi urged Blinken to introduce stricter coronavirus measures to “alleviate local anxiety among the Japanese public,” the Japanese government said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the governor of Okinawa blasted the US military for failing to contain the spread of coronavirus in Japan’s southernmost prefecture. 

According to Okinawan government data, on Wednesday there were more than 800 US military personnel in isolation after recently testing positive in the prefecture.

Rising cases: On Wednesday, Okinawa reported 623 new infections, a significant jump from the previous day’s 225. That brings the total number of active cases in the prefecture’s local population to more than 1,200.

Meanwhile, new Covid-19 cases nationwide topped 2,000 for the first time in three months on Wednesday — the most since September 26, according to a tally by Japanese public broadcaster NHK. 

Considering restrictions: Okinawa’s prefectural government said it will consider implementing a quasi-state of emergency to contain the virus, which requires bars and restaurants to shut early. The government will make a final decision at a task-force meeting Thursday. 

On Tuesday, Okinawa raised its alert level to 2 on its five-stage scale across the prefecture, requesting people avoid crowded areas and limit private gatherings to four people for no longer than two hours, a prefectural official told CNN.

According to the Japanese government, Blinken asserted that both the health and safety of the US Forces in Japan and the local population are very important to the US. He pledged to do as much as possible to curb the spread of infections.