The United States has agreed to tighten COVID-19 restrictions on personnel at US military bases in Japan, said the Japanese Foreign Ministry on Sunday.
For two weeks starting Monday, the movement of US forces personnel outside base facilities will be restricted to essential activities, said the joint statement by the Japanese government and US forces in Japan.
The US military in Japan has also agreed to impose mandatory mask-wearing requirements on all personnel, the statement said.
The US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) allows US military personnel to bypass Japanese quarantine offices if they land directly at a US military base, creating a loophole in entry screening.
The southern island of Okinawa Prefecture, bearing the brunt, reported 1,533 new cases on Sunday, the highest in the country and second only to the prefectures highest daily record of 1,795 on Saturday.
On the same day, the US military base in Okinawa reported 429 new cases, hitting a new high.
Infection surges at US military bases in Japan since last December have been considered fueling the quick rebound in cases in Japan.
The prefectures of Okinawa, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima, all hosts of US military bases, were placed under a quasi-state of emergency on Sunday.
Last year, the US once exempted military personnel from coronavirus testing before going to Japan on the grounds that they had been fully vaccinated.
Moreover, many US soldiers in Japan were seen in public places such as restaurants and bars without wearing masks.
Such practices of the US forces have sparked concerns and irritated local people and officials.
Denny Tamaki, governor of Okinawa, said last Sunday he was furious about the inadequate infection prevention and control measures at US military bases, which allowed coronavirus to spread from the US to Japan.