COVID-19 continues record frenzy in Tokyo as US military cases surge

U.S. service members wear masks as they relax with a video game at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Jan. 21, 2022. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)

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TOKYO — Japan’s capital confirmed another record day for new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, an unprecedented surge with no end in sight.

Tokyo confirmed 16,538 newly infected people, the highest single-day number of the pandemic, according to public broadcaster NHK. This record continues a three-day streak of new COVID-19 cases unlike any previous increase in the city.

Nearly 43% of hospital beds reserved for routine COVID-19 patients were full on Wednesday, a slight increase from the previous day, according to data from the metropolitan government. Only 3.5% of the 510 beds reserved for seriously ill patients were occupied.

Japan also hit a record high on Wednesday with 71,487 new coronavirus cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Another 34 people died, far from the one-day high of 216 on May 18.

The omicron variant, responsible for most cases in this phase of the pandemic, is less virulent than delta, its predecessor, but infects people more easily and has generated huge numbers of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. forces in Japan reported 311 new cases of coronavirus respiratory disease at 16 facilities across the country on Thursday, with 16 awaiting confirmation since the previous afternoon. The one-day total was 138 cases higher than Wednesday’s tally.

Tokyo confirmed 16,538 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, January 27, 2022, its highest single-day tally of the pandemic.
Tokyo confirmed 16,538 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, January 27, 2022, its highest single-day tally of the pandemic. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

In Okinawa, Kadena Air Force Base recorded the day’s high, 69 new cases, followed by the Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen with 46, according to the USFJ. Naval Base Yokosuka, the 7th Fleet’s home port south of Tokyo, reported 33. Kadena reported 314 active cases on Wednesday.

Okinawa Prefecture said it confirmed an additional 1,100 new infections Thursday and 190 among the U.S. military population, according to the prefectural Department of Public Health and Medical Care.

Naval Air Facility Atsugi, about 25 miles southwest of Tokyo, reported 10 new infections Thursday and a total of 54 cases, according to a post on its Facebook page.

Sasebo Naval Base on the island of Kyushu has reported eight confirmed cases and 240 active cases, according to a post on its Facebook page.

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, south of Hiroshima, also confirmed 10 new cases on Wednesday, according to a news release Thursday.

The U.S. military population was looking forward to Monday and the end of three weeks of confinement mostly at their off-base facilities or homes. A stay-at-home order begun Jan. 10 limited U.S. troops, civilian employees and their families to essential off-base travel only.

Commanders issued statements on Thursday aimed at boosting morale.

“When you go to war, you need a whole team. Our “war” has been this pandemic and medical personnel join the fleet to ensure that all who fight are protected! said Capt. Carolyn Rice, commanding officer of U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, in a statement emailed from the base to Stars and Stripes on Wednesday.

The naval base reported 179 new cases of COVID-19 between Monday and Wednesday, according to the USFJ.

At Camp Zama, the US Army headquarters southwest of Tokyo, garrison commander Col. Christopher Tomlinson announced that some facilities temporarily closed due to COVID-19 would reopen.

“We understand how these temporary measures this month may have impacted the quality of life and morale of our community,” he said in a post on Camp Zama’s Facebook page. “That’s why I’m happy to report that because of all this hard work, we’re starting to see a drop in our COVID cases and improving conditions across our facility.”

Indoor dining facilities, including the food court, moral welfare and recreation facilities and the indoor swimming pool will reopen, Tomlinson said. The youth center will reopen on Monday and youth sports will start in February.

Stars and Stripes reporters Alex Wilson and Mari Higa contributed to this report.

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Joseph Ditzler

Joseph Ditzler is a Marine Corps veteran and the Pacific Editor for Stars and Stripes. He is originally from Pennsylvania and has written for newspapers and websites in Alaska, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. He studied journalism at Penn State and international relations at the University of Oklahoma.



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