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(3rd LD) Two more Air Force officers, two military workers test positive for coronavirus

All News 18:53 February 27, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS military's response in paras 7-9)

SEOUL, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) -- Two Air Force officers and two civilian workers for the military tested positive for the new coronavirus Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the military to 25, the defense ministry said.

Three of the four new patients are stationed in South Korea's southeastern city of Daegu, where more than 1,000 confirmed cases have been confirmed. Including patients in its surrounding North Gyeongsang Province, more than 80 percent of the total cases have occurred there, according to the Korea Center for Disease Control (KCDC).

Of the total cases in the military, 15 are in the Army, eight in the Air Force and one each in the Navy and the Marine Corps, according to the ministry.

Three of the 25 patients are civilian workers, and the remainder are active-duty soldiers, it added.

As part of efforts to stem the further spread of the potentially deadly virus into the barracks, around 9,900 service members are quarantined at their bases.

Of them, about 820 have either shown symptoms or had direct contact with infected patients, while the remainder had visited Daegu or its neighboring regions after Feb. 10.

Following the increase in the number of infections among commuting officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), the ministry said the military will launch a weeklong emergency working system in Daegu effective Thursday.

Under the emergency measures, commanders and other military personnel essential for maintaining readiness will stay in the bases on-call, while other officers and NCOs will work from home or at other designated facilities in a preventive quarantine measure.

"As Daegu is where key facilities for rear operations and many Air Force units are located, the present situation requires extraordinary measures," the ministry said in a release.

Among the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) and related people, two have tested positive for the virus, including one active-duty soldier.

To guarantee the safety of their service members and to support Seoul's containment efforts, the South Korea-U.S. combined forces command decided to postpone their springtime joint military exercises slated for early March indefinitely.

Following the first confirmed case among its service personnel Friday, the South Korean defense ministry has halted off-installation drills and physical examinations for potential draftees. It has also restricted all enlisted soldiers' ability to go on vacation, stay outside their base and meet visitors.

USFK also raised its risk level to "high" and has limited its soldiers' non-essential off-installation activities and social events, as well as implementing a tougher process for accessing garrisons across the country.

Troops belonging to the Army's 50th division check the driver of an ambulance for fever near its base in northern Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Feb. 26, 2020. The military is taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among its ranks. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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