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(LEAD) Defense ministry official tests negative for coronavirus

All News 16:24 March 25, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with test results, more info)

SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- A partial shutdown of the defense ministry's main building in Seoul has been lifted after one of its officials, who had close contact with a relative confirmed to have the coronavirus, tested negative.

The ministry had temporarily shut down part of the building for disinfection work earlier in the day after the Army colonel assigned to the ministry was found to have dined with the relative, who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 following an overseas trip.

So far, no confirmed cases have been reported among those working in the Seoul compound, which accommodates several key defense facilities including the main building of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

Among the military, 39 people, including 34 active-duty service personnel, had contracted the virus as of Wednesday.

As a preventive step, around 1,770 service members are quarantined at their bases. Of them, about 180 have either shown symptoms or had direct contact with infected patients, while the remainder recently visited the southeastern city of Daegu, the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province or virus-hit foreign nations.

Nationwide, South Korea has reported 9,137 cases, including 126 deaths, as of Wednesday, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo visited the Armed Forces Medical Research Institute and the Agency for Defense Development and called on researchers to focus on epidemic studies.

"I hope you do your best to provide the necessary medical support to protect the lives and health of our people and soldiers from nonmilitary threats such as infectious diseases and carry out related research," the minister said.

Soldiers and officials carry out disinfection work on the first basement level of the defense ministry's main building in Seoul on March 25, 2020. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)



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