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28 GSDF members from across Japan test positive for coronavirus after BBQ trip

This March 2019 photo shows the front gate to the Defense Ministry in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- Twenty-eight female members of the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) who belong to bases across Japan and participated in a training course at a camp were confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus, the GSDF announced on Oct. 5.

    Some 190 female members reportedly participated in the training held at Camp Asaka, stretching across Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture north of the capital, between July and September. The 28 individuals confirmed with infections are in their 20s, and it was revealed that they had all partaken in a one-day barbecue holiday trip and chartered a bus for their journey. The Ministry of Defense has in effect banned parties at present in order to prevent novel coronavirus infections, and it is possible that the members' actions violated this rule.

    According to the GSDF, the 28 members belong to camps in 16 prefectures across Japan, from the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido to southernmost Okinawa. The personnel, who participated in the course to improve their skills, stayed in barracks at Camp Asaka, and attended classroom lectures and shooting classes among other training.

    The barbecue party was held on Sept. 26 in Saitama Prefecture, and a total of 44 people, including the 28 members, were present. Although the personnel had submitted a notice to go out, they apparently did not include any information about having a barbecue.

    Following the completion of the training course in late September, a number of members began to report fever and headache symptoms, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and antigen tests were conducted on them. As a result, the 28 GSDF members tested positive for the virus between Sept. 30 and Oct. 5. All the infected individuals showed mild or no symptoms, and have been hospitalized or are staying at a hotel, among other measures. Apart from the 28 members confirmed with infection, 13 have tested negative while three others are waiting for their test results.

    The GSDF said that it had ordered its personnel to wear masks, wash their hands, and gargle during the training course and at the barracks, and strived to grasp the members' state of health.

    Furthermore, a total of three members -- each from GSDF camps at Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, Higashi Tachikawa in the capital, and Akeno in the western Japan prefecture of Mie -- were also confirmed to have contracted the virus after they came into contact with the infected individuals who had returned to their respective camps from the training course. Following the spread of coronavirus infections, GSDF officials have temporarily placed a total of 400 members in quarantine, including participants of the training course who returned to their camps and those who came into contact with them.

    (Japanese original by Yoshitake Matsuura, City News Department)

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