Photo/Illutration U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, where the most COVID-19 infections among the U.S. military stationed in the prefecture were confirmed as of July 18. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

NAHA--At least 46 U.S. military and civilian personnel left bases in Okinawa Prefecture before their infections with COVID-19 were confirmed, raising fears of local residents' exposure to the virus, prefectural officials said July 18.

The prefectural government is hurrying to identify Okinawans who may have come into close contact with those carriers, who visited restaurants and other local establishments. 

Officials said U.S. military authorities provided them with additional information on the movements of those confirmed infected outside their bases.

The latest report brings the total number of U.S. military and civilian personnel who may have transmitted the novel coronavirus to local residents to 46 from about 20.

Two more cases were also confirmed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, raising the tally among U.S. military and civilian personnel infected in the prefecture since July 7 to 139. More than 70 cases were reported at the Futenma station. Cases were also registered at three other U.S. military facilities.

As for two infections at U.S. Kadena Air Base, both were U.S. civilian employees who live outside the base.

One had close contact with three to four Okinawans, prefectural officials said, citing a report from the U.S. military.

On July 19, the total number of COVID-19 cases among islanders rose to 156, up by two from the previous count.