By SHOGO MITSUZUMI/ Staff Writer
December 18, 2021 at 19:01 JST
NAHA--Prefectural authorities in Okinawa announced the first known case of a local resident confirmed infected with the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
The Dec. 17 disclosure came on the heels of a report from U.S. military authorities that close to 100 personnel recently arrived in Okinawa were found to have COVID-19.
Prefectural government officials requested that those individuals be tested for the Omicron variant to determine if a causal relationship exists.
U.S. military officials have refused to cooperate with the prefectural government.
The infected resident, a man in his 50s, worked at Camp Hansen in Kin, Okinawa Prefecture, and lived in Uruma.
Prefectural government authorities believe that at least 10 individuals were in close contact with the patient, including family members and work colleagues.
Officials are conducting genome analysis because they suspect a woman in her 50s and a male in his 60s who was in close contact with her also may be infected with the Omicron variant.
U.S. military officials notified the Okinawa prefectural government Dec. 17 that 70 military personnel were found infected. There were also infection reports on Dec. 15 and 16, and the total number of cases came to 99.
On Dec. 18, prefectural authorities were informed by U.S. military officials that an additional 59 COVID-19 cases were confirmed among military personnel at Camp Hansen.
All of the individuals flew to Kadena Air Base directly from the United States under a planned troop deployment to Okinawa.
U.S. military officials told prefectural government officials that those recently deployed had no contact with local residents outside the base under a protocol for restricted activity and that those who tested positive were self-isolating.
The Okinawa man infected with the Omicron variant did not work directly in the self-quarantine facility in Camp Hansen. Prefectural government officials said an epidemiological study was being conducted to determine if there was a link to the infection cluster among U.S. military personnel.
On Dec. 17, prefectural government officials asked the U.S. military to conduct a genome analysis of those infected to determine if any of the individuals had the Omicron variant.
But U.S. officials said they did not have the necessary equipment to conduct such tests in Okinawa, adding that if they deemed such tests were necessary they would have to be performed in the United States.
Okinawa prefectural government officials offered to conduct the genome analysis, but U.S. officials refused on grounds that personal information had to be protected.
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