Coronavirus cases rise again in Okinawa as weather warms

COVID-19 is infecting the very old and the very young in this latest surge, a spokesperson for the Okinawa Department of Health and Medical Care said Monday, April 11, 2022. (Frank Andrews/Stars and Stripes)

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New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again in Okinawa, but public health authorities are recommending little more than basic hygiene and common sense to prevent the disease from spreading further.

Coronavirus respiratory disease is infecting the very old and the very young in this latest surge, a spokesperson for the Okinawa Ministry of Health and Medical Care told Stars and Stripes on Monday.

“There are many cases in children, adolescents and young people in their twenties,” the spokesperson said. “It’s the time of year when people become active in a new environment. I think there are a lot of opportunities for people to have dinner together.

The hospital bed occupancy rate rose from 24% on March 28 to 31.2% a week later, according to the Public Health Department.

“Additionally, we are seeing cases increase in aged care facilities. The elderly are at high risk of hospitalization,” the spokesperson said. “That’s why we’re seeing an increase in hospital bed occupancy.”

It is customary in Japan for some government officials to speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

Okinawa residents are urged to maintain basic prevention measures, such as washing hands and wearing masks, and avoiding contact with people at high risk of hospitalization, the spokesperson said.

The prefecture last reported two COVID-19-related deaths on March 31, according to the department.

Japan itself saw the number of new cases jump from around 45,600 on April 5 to nearly 52,629 on Saturday, with a high of 54,879 on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Tokyo’s cases are also climbing, topping 8,000 a day for five days, from April 6 to Sunday, according to the metropolitan government.

Just 11 days into April, US military bases in Okinawa had racked up 554 new cases, more than half the number they had seen in March, 809, according to the prefectural public health department.

On Thursday, the Public Health Department reported 107 new U.S. military cases, the highest number this quarter in more than two months.

US forces in Japan reduced their daily reports on the number of new cases to weekly averages in the last two weeks of March and only to the number of hospitalizations in April. The USFJ reported 68.4 new cases per day, on average, between March 22 and March 28, according to its latest public report of individual baseline numbers.

Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa accounted for 13.6 new cases per day, the third highest on the baseline list that week. On Friday, the base reported 168 active cases.

Okinawa’s U.S. military population numbers approximately 80,000 military personnel, mostly Marines, as well as Department of Defense civilians and their family members.

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