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(LEAD) Military eases restrictions on off-installation visits amid coronavirus

All News 10:31 April 24, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with latest figures at bottom)

SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) -- The military on Friday began partially allowing enlisted service members' off-installation travel amid signs of a slowdown in the spread of the new coronavirus in the country.

The military had restricted all enlisted service personnel from vacationing, staying outside their bases and meeting visitors since the Navy reported the first COVID-19 infection in barracks in mid-February.

Under the eased policy, enlisted service members at designated areas are allowed to go outside their bases as long as they follow the government's broader social distancing guidance, according to the defense ministry.

Earlier, the government said it will ease some rules in the social distancing campaign against the new virus, while urging people to keep major distancing practices in place until early May.

The military will first ease restrictions in regions that have not reported any new infections for a week and review whether to allow the service members to go on vacation, stay out of their bases and meet visitors after monitoring the situation down the road.

Among some 220 cities, counties and districts, around 80 percent meet the criteria as of Wednesday, officials said.

The ministry said the decision was made in part to alleviate difficulties in managing troops after service members increasingly complained of extreme stress.

Though the restriction policy has been in place for two months, some service members could not leave their bases for five to six months depending on their situations, officials said.

The military has so far reported 39 infections in barracks. The last case was reported in mid-March.

South Korea reported six new coronavirus cases Friday, bringing the nation's total infections to 10,708, including 240 deaths.

In this file photo, taken Feb. 21, 2020, soldiers move to take trains at Seoul Station in Seoul. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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