U.S Marine Flies to Japan With COVID

The Japanese authorities filed a protest with the US military earlier in the month. This happened when a Marine sick with COVID-19 violated quarantine regulations and flew from Tokyo to Okinawa on a civilian airline.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno stated they urged US Forces in Japan to adhere to the border procedures and prevent a repeat.

The Virus Wasn’t Transmitted to Other Passengers

Per the spokesperson, the Marine was intended to be isolated at Yokota Air Base, the US airlift center in western Tokyo. Instead, he flew to Okinawa the following day on a passenger plane. As of Wednesday, no one on the aircraft contracted the virus.

As per the spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous, the Marine should not have been using public transit at all. He went on to say this should not occur again.

According to the official, the Marine Corps alerted prefectural regulators on November 1 that a Marine went to Okinawa the day before and tested positive on arrival. He stated the Marine was vaccinated and asymptomatic.

The spokesperson also mentioned Japanese officials were taken aback because they assumed the Marine was quarantined at Yokota, which also serves as the headquarters for USFJ. He said the Marine announced wrongly at Narita he was posted to Yokota.

On Wednesday, USFJ did not reply to an email requesting comment. The III Marine Expeditionary Force sent Stars and Stripes to Marine Corps Facilities Pacific, which did not respond to an email requesting comment.

According to the spokesperson, Yokota is the authorized quarantine location for people visiting Japan under the position of forces agreement who test positive at Narita. The Narita staff “assumed” the Marine would be collected from Yokota and transported to be isolated.

This is the Second Incident

A spokesman for the ministry’s SOFA office told Stars and Stripes via phone Wednesday the USFJ promptly alerted the Japanese Foreign Ministry, following the incident. They have been demanding this shouldn’t be happening again.

According to a public health representative, the prefectural public health service tested 27 passengers seated near the Marine. Per the public health spokesperson, provincial authorities followed up with a statement to the Foreign Ministry on November 10.

In it, they formally demanded a probe into how the event occurred and urged Tokyo to confine COVID-positive individuals, including US military personnel, at airports.

The letter also asked the Japanese government to urge USFJ to make comprehensive efforts to prevent a repeat, assist with airport testing, and “make certain” positive cases are isolated.

This would be the second spat between Japan and the US military over US passengers breaking coronavirus limitations in Japan under the SOFA. A large family boarded a commercial flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport Terminal to Kintaikyo Airport on their route to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in July 2020.

Haneda’s tests eventually revealed three of the family members were afflicted with the coronavirus. The family departed Japan and was forbidden from entering US military bases for ten years.


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