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A dozen new cases reported from coronavirus cluster at Marine Corps base in Japan

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TOKYO — The U.S. military reported 20 new coronavirus cases in Japan and South Korea on Wednesday and Thursday, including 12 at a Marine base in western Japan.

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni reported 11 new infections Thursday, all discovered during widespread testing on base after three people tested positive earlier in the week.

Local Japanese residents buy food from a food stand during the Host Town Festival at Atago Sports Complex in Iwakuni City, Japan, Oct. 3, 2020. The Host Town Festival was organized by Iwakuni City and MCAS Iwakuni to strengthen the bond between station residents and the local community. This is the first large-scale community event since the COVID-19 risk mitigation measures were put in place. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lauren Brune)

A 12th individual tested positive after arriving at MCAS Iwakuni on the Patriot Express, a U.S.-Japan passenger flight contracted by the military, and going straight into mandatory quarantine, according to a news release Wednesday.

The discovery of three cases Monday prompted the air station to temporarily confine Marines from one unit to their homes and barracks, along with their families and other contacts. Two more people tested positive the following day.

The base has not identified the source of the infections. MCAS Iwakuni is about 540 miles west of Tokyo and 30 miles southwest of Hiroshima.

The most recent cases were discovered during a testing campaign, according to a news release Thursday.

“These individuals, along with several hundred others, were tested as part of a large-scale testing initiative for those in proximity to the positive cases announced on” Monday and Tuesday, according to the air station. “That testing is now complete.”

U.S. Forces Korea announced six new coronavirus infections Thursday among people who flew into Osan Air Base between Nov. 3 and Wednesday.

Five service members and one dependent arrived on flights from the United States on Nov. 3, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, according to a USFK news release. Five tested positive upon arrival and before going into quarantine; the sixth tested positive in quarantine.

Back in Japan, two people at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa tested positive after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a post on the base Facebook page Thursday.

The two became ill Saturday and isolated themselves before being quarantined by base health authorities on Tuesday and Wednesday. Five of their close contacts tested negative but remain quarantined awaiting further tests, according to the post.

Anyone affiliated with the U.S. military must be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival in Japan and South Korea, spend a minimum 14 days in isolation and test free of the virus before leaving quarantine. The order covers service members, Defense Department civilian employees, contractors and family members.

The six in South Korea were moved into quarantine at Osan and the Army’s Camp Humphreys, according to USFK.

The command has reported a pandemic total of 325 coronavirus cases in South Korea; only 27 individuals contracted the virus locally.

Okinawa prefecture on Thursday reported one new coronavirus infection at Camp Foster, a Marine Corps base, a prefectural public health official told Stars and Stripes by phone.

The Marine Corps, which experienced cluster outbreaks that totaled more than 300 individuals over the summer, stopped reporting individual cases in early November.

Most new infections reported by the U.S. military in Japan and South Korea originate with new arrivals from the U.S. or returning travelers.

While USFK specifies whether new patients are service members, civilian employees or family members, the U.S. military in Japan does not.

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