July 13 (UPI) -- The governor of Okinawa has demanded stronger U.S. action after 61 U.S. Marines at two military bases there were reported infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Two bases on the Japanese island were put into lockdown phase on Friday, U.S. military officials said, after 38 personnel at Marine Air Corps Station Futenma and 23 at Camp Hansen were diagnosed since July 7.
The lockdown extends to Kadena Air Base, which regards itself as the "hub of U.S. air power in the Pacific" and home to the U.S. Air Force 18th Wing and associated units.
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said he demanded increased disease prevention measures and a halt to new U.S. military personnel at Okinawa in a weekend phone call with Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy of the III Marine Expeditionary Force.
"It is extremely regrettable that the infections are rapidly spreading among U.S. personnel when we Okinawans are doing our utmost to contain the infections," Tamaki said. "We now have strong doubts that the U.S. military has taken adequate disease prevention measures."
He noted that many U.S. service members held beach parties and participated in Okinawan night life on July 4, and expressed concern that the celebrations may have spread the virus in the community.
A Marine Corps order on Saturday closed all "non-essential facilities" and prohibited off-base activities. With the localized clusters on the two bases identified, Marine officials said those infected with COVID-19 have been placed in isolation.
The U.S. military has also contracted with local hotels in order to free space in on-base facilities "so that on-base lodging can be used to house those undergoing their quarantine period," the Marine Corps told UPI.
About 50,000 U.S. personnel are stationed on Okinawa under a bilateral security pact. The island has had about 150 cases of COVID-19, including local residents, and seven deaths.
Japan has had about 21,000 cases and 1,000 deaths, with a weekend outbreak in Tokyo causing 200 new cases per day for three consecutive days.