MSDF Members on Middle East Mission Tested for Coronavirus
Tokyo, May 8 (Jiji Press)--Japan's Defense Ministry tested personnel aboard a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer on an antipiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia for the novel coronavirus, government sources said Friday.
The ministry determined the need to ramp up measures against the COVID-19 outbreak, as the MSDF members are on a long-term mission and the working environment on the ship constitutes a closed and crowded place involving close contact with others, which is believed to increase group infection risks, the sources said.
The Defense Ministry conducted polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests on crew aboard the destroyer Onami before it was deployed from the MSDF base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, to the south of Tokyo, in late April, according to the sources. The Onami will replace another MSDF vessel currently dispatched for antipiracy measures.
At a news conference on Friday, Defense Minister Taro Kono admitted the PCR tests and said the ministry also plans to conduct tests for the crew members of the MSDF destroyer Kirisame, which is scheduled to leave the Sasebo base in Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan, on Sunday on a mission to gather intelligence for securing sea lane safety in the Middle East.
Djibouti, where the SDF has a base for activities in the Middle East, has introduced entry restrictions as part of its efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result, crew aboard MSDF destroyers cannot go ashore unless for being transported to a medical facility in the event that members are found to be infected with the coronavirus.
[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]