U.S. forces in Japan did not test their personnel for novel coronavirus infections upon departure from the United States, going against Tokyo’s request to follow its border control measures, Japanese government officials said Thursday.
Those stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen in Okinawa Prefecture, where a group infection has been reported, and other bases have been untested before arriving in Japan, the officials said without specifying, adding the government will release its findings as early as Friday.
The U.S. Forces Japan told Kyodo News that vaccinated personnel coming to its facilities by military aircraft were not required to have PCR tests before their landing in line with the guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the forces said personnel are now required to be tested 72 hours prior to arrival after the group infection at Camp Hansen.
A total of 232 people at Camp Hansen have been found infected with the coronavirus, according to the Okinawa prefectural government.
Meanwhile, 10 people, including Japanese workers at the base and their families, have tested positive for the highly contagious Omicron variant, it said.
“We have asked the U.S. side to thoroughly implement the maximum measures to prevent the spread of infections,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said during a regular news conference.
Matsuno said he has received an explanation that the U.S. military in Japan has not conducted PCR tests upon departure and instead conducted them on the fifth day after arrival, given that the personnel have already been vaccinated and would not leave facilities’ premises until after movement restrictions are lifted.
He said final arrangements are being made to test those found infected with the coronavirus for the Omicron variant.
A government official earlier said the entire U.S. forces in Japan did not conduct PCR tests on personnel upon departure, but later stated that whether it was a practice by all of them is still being checked.
In a press conference on Thursday, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki urged the U.S. military to strengthen its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is hard to recognize if the U.S. side is taking sufficient measures to prevent the spread of infections,” he said, adding that imposing steps taken by Japan will serve as “proof the Japan-U.S alliance is functioning effectively.”
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi conveyed strong regret to U.S. Forces Japan Commander Lt. Gen. Ricky Rupp over the failure to conduct PCR tests.