(ATTN: ADDS military manpower agency's anti-virus measures in last 4 paras)
SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) -- The military has banned service personnel in the southeastern city of Daegu from leaving their bases, including for vacations, and meeting with visitors in the wake of a surge in new coronavirus cases in the region, the defense ministry said Thursday.
Of the 82 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far, 48 were reported in the southeastern region, and the figure is feared to grow further as most of the Daegu patients were found to have attended the same church services that brought together around 1,000 people.
"We issued several precautionary measures for military units in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province areas yesterday night, effective immediately," ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told a regular briefing, adding that the ministry is reviewing whether to quarantine soldiers who have visited Daegu areas recently.
Currently, around 300 soldiers are in isolation, as they 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.
The ministry also decided to hold the entrance ceremonies of the military academies in a scaled-back manner without inviting family members and acquaintances of their freshmen.
"No suspected or confirmed cases of the new coronavirus have been reported among service personnel. The ministry continues to seek diverse preventive steps to prevent the spread of the virus into barracks," Choi added.
The Military Manpower Administration (MMA) also decided to temporarily halt physical checkups for potential draftees residing in or near Daegu for two weeks starting Friday, according to its officials.
It has been encouraging people there to delay their planned enlistment regardless of whether they show symptoms or not.
As for potential conscripts who live in other parts of the country, the MMA has allowed postponement if they have visited any of nine territories -- China, Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia -- recently or had contact with others who have visited them, they added.
All able-bodied South Korean men must carry out service for about two years.
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