Photo/Illutration Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki discusses COVID-19 cases at U.S. bases in the prefecture during a Dec. 21 news conference held at the prefectural government’s office. (Tsukasa Kimura)

NAHA--Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki called for the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Hansen base to effectively “lock down” following revelations that a widening on-base COVID-19 cluster outbreak now totaled 207 cases.

Denny issued the request as an additional 21 individuals at the base tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

He requested that all U.S. Marines and civilian employees be restricted to on-base activities and not be allowed to venture beyond the base perimeter located in the town of Kin.

He also called Dec. 21 on the U.S. military to temporarily stop rotating Marines and civilian employees to the base from the United States as part of steps to keep prefectural residents safe.

Tamaki issued the requests to Lt. Gen. James Bierman, whose position as Okinawa Area Coordinator makes him the most senior U.S. military officer based in Okinawa, when they spoke by phone.

He also asked Bierman to ensure that all Marines and civilian employees at Camp Hansen are given polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and establish on-base genome analysis to detect whether those who test positive for COVID-19 have the Omicron variant.

In responding to Tamaki’s request for a temporary halt in deployments of Marine Corps personnel to Camp Hansen, U.S. military authorities said they would consider their options in light of their obligations under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, according to prefectural officials.

In response to the request for a ban on personnel leaving the base, U.S. authorities insisted they had plugged infections from spreading further from the units whose personnel had tested positive for COVID-19.