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(LEAD) Two more coronavirus cases confirmed in military, total at 20

All News 18:40 February 26, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead with latest figures; ADDS more details throughout, photo)

SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- Two more Air Force officers tested positive for the new coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the military to 20, the defense ministry said.

As of 5 p.m., the number of COVID-19 patients among service personnel stood at 20, up from 18 tallied earlier in the day, according to the ministry. They were among the country's 1,261 confirmed cases, which includes 12 deaths.

Of the 20, 13 are in the Army, five are in the Air Force and there is one each in the Navy and the Marine Corps, the ministry added.

Around 9,570 service members are quarantined at their bases.

Of them, about 540 have either shown symptoms or had direct contact with infected patients, while the remainder had recently visited the southeastern city of Daegu or surrounding regions, where a spike in confirmed cases has been reported over the past week.

Soldiers head to their platform at Seoul Station in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2020. Earlier in the day, the defense ministry said it will restrict all enlisted soldiers' ability to go on vacation, stay outside their bases and meet visitors starting the following day. The move came after the Navy reported the first suspected coronavirus case among the country's service members the previous day. (Yonhap)

In the wake of the continued growth in confirmed cases, the military authorities of South Korea and the U.S. have also discussed the potential adjustment of their combined military exercises slated for March. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said earlier that the allies are looking to scale down exercises due to concerns over the new coronavirus.

The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) also reported its first confirmed case among its service personnel on Wednesday, as a 23-year-old soldier at Camp Carroll in South Korea's southeastern county of Chilgok tested positive.

Following the first confirmed case among its service personnel on Friday, the South Korean defense ministry has halted off-installation drills and physical examinations for potential draftees. It has also restricted all enlisted soldiers from vacationing, staying outside their base and meeting visitors.

In order to support nationwide anti-virus efforts, the military authorities mobilized around 1,130 officials and soldiers, including around 300 military medical staff, according to the ministry.

The briefing room and the pressroom at the ministry building in Seoul, meanwhile, reopened late Wednesday following the two-day closure for anti-coronavirus disinfection work, which came after a cameraman with a local news outlet who visited the facilities had shown symptoms of pneumonia. He tested negative for the virus, according to the officials.

Workers clad in protective gear sort out equipment for disinfection at the LS Yongsan Tower in Seoul on Feb. 25, 2020. They disinfected the closed high-rise after a worker there was found to be infected with the new coronavirus the previous day. (Yonhap)

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graceoh@yna.co.kr
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