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(LEAD) S. Korea reports 1st military member infected with coronavirus

All News 09:42 February 21, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS lead with more suspected cases; ADDS more details in paras 5-9)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL/JEJU, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- A Navy sailor on the southern island of Jeju was confirmed Friday to have contracted the new coronavirus in the first such case among service personnel in South Korea, officials said, with more cases of soldier infections being reported across the country.

The sailor, 22, tested positive for COVID-19 in initial examination the previous day and was finally confirmed earlier in the day, according to the officials.

He visited his hometown, Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from Feb. 13 to Tuesday. Upon returning to the base, he showed symptoms, such as coughing, prompting the authorities to immediately quarantine him at the base. He is now at a Jeju hospital.

It is not yet known exactly how he contracted the virus. But South Korea has seen a surge in patients in Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province in recent days, as the country's 31st patient attended a church service, along with around 1,000 others.

According to local health officials, an Army officer in the central county of Jeungpyeong, North Chungcheong Province, also tested positive and was transferred to a military hospital. If confirmed, it will be the first new coronavirus case in the central province.

He reportedly met his girlfriend in the southeastern city of Daegu, where dozens of cases were confirmed within a couple of days. The girlfriend attends the same New World Church, or Shincheonji Church of Jesus, as the country's 31st patient, who is considered a "super spreader," officials said.

An Air Force soldier currently assigned to a unit at the military compound in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, was also confirmed to have the virus and was transferred to a military hospital earlier in the day, local officials said.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) has yet to officially confirm the outbreaks among service members. As of late Thursday, the total number of confirmed cases in South Korea stood at 104.

In the wake of high chances of the first coronavirus case among service personnel, the defense ministry decided late Thursday to restrict all enlisted soldiers from vacationing and staying outside their base to meet visitors starting Saturday.

A Navy sailor arrives at a hospital on South Korea's southern island of Jeju to undergo a test for the new coronavirus on Feb. 20, 2020. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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