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(LEAD) 740 soldiers quarantined over new coronavirus: defense ministry

All News 14:03 February 13, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS USFK's anti-virus measures in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Yonhap) -- About 740 soldiers are quarantined as part of efforts to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading into barracks, the defense ministry said Thursday.

The quarantined soldiers, including 520 conscripts, have either visited China, Hong Kong or Macao in the past 14 days or had contact with people who traveled to those places, according to the ministry.

"No confirmed or suspected cases have been reported among our service personnel" a ministry official said.

Since the end of last month, the ministry temporarily banned service personnel from visiting China. The South Korean government issued a travel alert for China except for Taiwan, and called for "restraint" of travel to Hong Kong and Macau.

"Currently, the number of soldiers quarantined after visits to the cited countries stood at around 40. We continue to implement related preemptive measures against the virus," the official added.

As of early Thursday, South Korea had 28 confirmed cases of the novel virus, named COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said on its website that service members "must obtain General Officer approval to travel to Hong Kong."

Currently, USFK bans its service personnel's travel to China.

"Although additional USFK travel restrictions have not been imposed, travel to any of the above countries carries a risk of exposure to the Corona Virus and travelers should exercise increased precautions," it said, citing Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan as countries that the Seoul government has issued travel advisories.

Soldiers and police officers conduct joint anti-terrorism drills while wearing masks in Jinhae, South Korea, on Feb. 11, 2020, in this photo provided by the Defense Media Agency. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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