(2nd LD) 3 additional coronavirus cases reported in military, total at 31
(ATTN: ADDS defense chief's message in paras 9-10, photo)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- Two more service personnel and a civilian worker for the military tested positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the military to 31 early Tuesday, the defense ministry said.
The newly confirmed COVID-19 cases were an Army officer and an employee of the Air Force stationed in the southeastern city of Daegu as well as a Marine Corps officer in the nearby port city of Pohang in North Gyeongsang Province, according to the ministry.
Of the total, 17 are in the Army, 11 in the Air Force, two in the Marine Corps and one in the Navy, the ministry said, adding that 27 of the total are active-duty soldiers.
As of midnight Tuesday, South Korea reported 4,812 virus patients, with nearly 75 percent of cases occurring in Daegu. Taken together with cases in North Gyeongsang Province, the figure rises to 90 percent.
Around 7,410 service members are quarantined at their bases. Of them, around 860 have either shown symptoms or had direct contact with infected patients, while the remainder recently visited Daegu, North Gyeongsang or virus-hit foreign countries such as China, Hong Kong, Macao and Japan.
The military has also halted outdoor drills across the country and limited service members' off-installation travel.
As part of efforts to support the government's all-out battle against the novel virus, the military is to send 75 nurses who are to graduate from the Korea Armed Forces Nursing Academy to a military hospital in Daegu on Tuesday.
They will join 35 other military doctors and nurses there to get ready to accept civilian patients starting Thursday, according to the ministry.
"Your mission will greatly contribute to South Korea overcoming COVID-19 and becoming a healthy nation. Your sacrifice and commitment will be deeply remembered," Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said in a congratulatory message during the graduation ceremony.
Stressing that protecting people's lives in a national crisis is "a noble mission of service personnel," Jeong expressed "sorrow and gratitude" over dispatching them to the local epicenter of the outbreak.
In the anti-virus efforts, nearly 1,400 service members, officials and medical staff have been dispatched to major facilities across the country, it added.
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