Commanders Tighten Restrictions on US Bases Across Japan to Combat Coronavirus

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Service members deliver meals to personnel in a Restriction of Movement status at Naval Air Facility Misawa, Japan.
Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Recruit Marvin Monterroza, left, and Yeoman Seaman Apprentice Lanarja Williams, both assigned to the "Red Lancers" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 10, deliver meals to personnel in a Restriction of Movement (ROM) status at Naval Air Facility Misawa on March 26, 2020. The 14-day ROM policy for all newly arriving personnel in Japan is one of the many measures instituted by the Department of Defense to stop the spread of COVID-19. (Joseph M. Buliavac/U.S. Navy)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Commanders in Japan by Friday had imposed a series of restrictions on their personnel to curb the spread of coronavirus, measures authorized earlier in the week by the overarching Indo-Pacific Command.

Many have restricted service members' travel on duty and off; ordered them to stay out of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and other crowded civilian venues; to maintain six feet between one another and to wash their hands frequently, among other measures.

INDOPACOM, headquartered in Hawaii, on Wednesday gave individual commands discretion to impose a battery of restrictions aimed at buffering U.S. forces overseas from the global pandemic.

Naval Forces Japan moved first Wednesday and restricted its sailors' travel and liberty and ordered them to stay out of civilian business establishments, with some exceptions, such as food stores, medical offices, pharmacies and take-out restaurants.

On Friday, U.S. Army Japan commander Maj. Gen. Viet Luon ordered "aggressive prevention and mitigation measures" on Army posts across the country.

His order in many ways was the most specific. It affects all soldiers in Japan and service members of any branch at Army posts, including service members at Camp Zama and Sagami Depot in Kanagawa prefecture, Hardy Barracks in Tokyo and Torii Station on Okinawa, said Maj. Elias Chelala, a spokesman for U.S. Army Japan, on Friday.

Soldiers may travel only between their off-base homes and their duty stations. They must confine their off-base movements to a local area.

"All bars and social clubs are hereby off-limits," Luon ordered. "Local businesses and restaurants within the 10-kilometer radius may still be patronized."

Service members may not travel farther than 6.2 miles from their place of duty, except on official business, the general ordered.

Air Force and Marine Corps commanders in Japan imposed their own set of restrictions Friday.

On Okinawa, 18th Air Wing commander Brig. Gen. Joel Carey at Kadena Air Base posted a set of prohibitions on the base's official Facebook page.

They include a ban on visitor passes except for official business, a ban on service members using mass transit and a ban on certain off-base activities, such as visiting sit-down restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms and movie theaters. Airmen may travel around Okinawa and the adjacent islands, but only in private vehicles.

In some cases, Defense Department civilian employees, contractors and service members' families are not directly covered by the measures imposed by uniformed commanders but are strongly encouraged to comply.

Marine Forces Japan announced in a Friday press release its own set of restrictions, which mirrored those of its Navy and Air Force counterparts.

It banned its personnel from visiting the same types of off-base establishments except those that "support vital household functions," such as banks, grocery stores, gas stations and dry cleaning.

The Marine Corps order applies to Marines, as well as dependents, DOD civilian employees, contractors and other personnel.

Misawa Air Base on Friday also imposed a similar set of restrictions, including medical screening at its gate.

At Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, 374th Airlift Wing commander Col. Otis Jones prohibited airmen from traveling beyond the suburbs surrounding the base. Airmen living off base may travel from home to work only. Base gatherings of more than 20 people are banned. Groups of any number should refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages, he said.

All four service branches emphasized social distancing -- typically a minimum six feet between individuals but for the Army, a minimum three feet -- and frequent, thorough handwashing for a minimum 20 seconds with soap and water or with a hand-sanitizing gel.

Luon specified that soldiers must wash their hands before entering common areas such as the post exchange, commissary, mail room and barracks. He also imposed a limit of six people for any face-to-face official meeting.

Soldiers must still take part in daily physical training, but will do so individually, outdoors, rather than in groups, Luon said. The Marines imposed a similar order.

Luon also banned barracks parties or social gatherings in base housing areas. Only the assigned occupant may be present in a barracks room. During room inspections or other assigned tasks, no more than three service members may be present at one time.

"Failure to follow these limitations could result in the loss of installation access privileges," his order states. The orders are in effect until he rescinds them, Luon said.

This article is written by Seth Robson and Matthew M. Burke from Stars and Stripes and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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