By YURI KAGEYAMA – Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) – The United States and Japan agreed on Sunday to keep U.S. troops at their bases as concerns grew over a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the country.
The restrictions from Monday will last 14 days, confining US military personnel to base facilities, except for “essential activities,” according to a statement from US forces in Japan. The Japanese Foreign Ministry issued the same statement.
Allies will share information and cooperate on coronavirus measures, “given the extraordinary virulence of the omicron variant which is spreading throughout Japan,” the statement said.
The U.S. military will wear masks, both on and off the base, outside their homes, and will continue to perform strict testing before leaving for and after arriving in Japan, he said.
New cases of COVID-19 rose in Japan, surpassing 8,000 on Saturday, a four-month record. The peak was more pronounced in areas near US bases. Japan last week called on the United States to cooperate in keeping its military personnel on the base.
Okinawa, a group of southwestern islands that is home to most of the 55,000 US troops in Japan, is one of three prefectures where separate government restrictions were enforced on Sunday. The measures, which last until the end of the month, include the early closure of restaurants at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. Some restaurants must also stop serving alcohol.