Japanese officials blame U.S. bases for rise in COVID-19 cases

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Jan. 7 (UPI) — Japan on Friday implemented new restrictions in three prefectures beset by a rise in COVID-19 cases some government officials have blamed on U.S. military bases.

The government put Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima under a quasi-state of emergency to deal with the increase in cases, Kyodo News reported. The declaration is expected to be in effect from Sunday to Jan. 31.

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It’s the first time Japan has instituted “priority measures” since September, when it lifted such controls after most of the year, NBC News.

Japan recorded a four-month high of more than 6,000 COVID-19 cases Friday, with 1,414 in Okinawa, a record-high 429 in Hiroshima and 180 in Yamaguchi.

“We judged that we need to cope with the spread of infections swiftly,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

“Infection numbers have been rising nationwide through the year-end, New Year period and community transmissions of Omicron have been reported in parts of the nation.”

The restrictions come amid an outbreak of cases at the U.S. Marine Corps‘ Camp Hansen in Okinawa and another base in Yamaguchi. Kyodo News reported some local officials believe cases may have spread from the bases into the surrounding areas.

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Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said there’s “no doubt” that the outbreaks at the U.S. military bases played a role in the spread of the virus.