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(2nd LD) Hundreds of special forces personnel mobilized to support virus fight

Defense 13:52 December 14, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS medics dispatch, comments in paras 5, 7)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- More than 300 Special Warfare officers were dispatched to public health centers Monday to help with the government's handling of the new coronavirus, the Army said.

A total of 379 officers from the Army's Special Warfare Command were sent to 79 public health centers in Seoul and the surrounding areas to conduct diverse supporting roles, such as contact tracing, data management and transferring samples for virus tests for two months, according to the Army.

The move came as the metropolitan area has reported large numbers of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. On Sunday, the country's number of daily infections hit a record high of 1,030, and nearly 80 percent of them were from Seoul, the western city of Incheon and Gyeonggi Province.

"We will do our best to support the government's antivirus efforts just like carrying out military operations," Yang Eun-chan, who leads the Army's new coronavirus task force, said.

Ambulances are parked in front of Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Dec. 14, 2020. The National Fire Agency mobilized vehicles and personnel from 12 regional headquarters to the South Korean capital and the surrounding areas the same day to help transport patients infected with the new coronavirus amid a spike in the number of coronavirus cases. (Yonhap)

In addition to the special forces personnel, the defense ministry sent 56 military doctors and 18 nurses to newly established makeshift testing centers in the greater Seoul area to support quarantine work.

Free virus tests are offered at the centers with a goal of having more people take tests.

"A total of 486 officials will be additionally sent to the testing centers on Wednesday, and we are considering mobilizing more personnel, if necessary, in close consultations with health authorities," a ministry official said.

On Monday, South Korea's daily virus cases fell back below 1,000 to stand at 718, including 682 local infections, raising the total caseload to 43,484, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

But the drop is believed to be owing largely to fewer tests conducted on the weekend.

The military added no new COVID-19 patients Monday for the first time in nearly a month. It has seen a drastic surge in confirmed cases due to cluster infections at barracks across the world since mid-November.

Up until Monday morning, the total caseload among the military population came to 451, according to the defense ministry.

In the file photo from July 25, 2020, soldiers carry out disinfection work at a train station in the central city of Daejeon. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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