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(LEAD) Defense ministry shuts down pressroom, briefing room over coronavirus concerns

All News 13:42 February 25, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES 5th para with latest figures; ADDS details on combined drills in last 3 paras, photo)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- The defense ministry on Tuesday said it has temporarily shut down its pressroom and briefing room for anti-coronavirus disinfection work after a cameraman with a local news outlet was admitted to a hospital with symptoms of the virus.

In a notice to reporters, the ministry said the facilities on the first floor of the ministry's main building in Seoul will be closed until Wednesday as a precaution against the COVID-19 virus.

The cameraman was admitted to a hospital for pneumonia and a coronavirus infection is suspected, officials said, adding that test results will be available later Tuesday.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) has also banned visitors from accessing its building located in the same compound, they added.

As of 9 a.m., the number of coronavirus cases among service personnel remained the same as the previous day at 13, while the country's total confirmed cases rose to 893 and eight deaths.

The entrance of the defense ministry's main building in Seoul (Yonhap)

As part of efforts to stop the virus from spreading further in barracks, the authorities came up with additional measures, including halting off-installation drills and physical examinations for potential draftees.

U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) also reported a first COVID-19 case among related individuals on Monday, as "a USFK widowed dependent" living in Daegu tested positive for the virus.

In order to protect the force, the military has raised the risk level from moderate to high, and called for limiting non-mission essential in-person meetings and gatherings, as well as temporary duty travel and assignments

South Korea and the United States are also considering scaling back their planned springtime combined exercises, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday (Washington time) following talks with his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo.

The allies have been scheduled to stage their computer-simulated "combined command post training (CCPT)" for about 10 days in March after Crisis Management Staff Training (CMST), which is a kind of lead-up to the event, according to military sources.

"The two sides could shorten the period of the exercises or carry out part of their planned programs, rather than delaying or canceling them," a source here said, adding the decision is expected to be made as early as this week.

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (R) and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper hold a joint press conference at the Pentagon in Washington on Feb. 24, 2020. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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