By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Robert Abrams on Friday called for "immediate and aggressive" measures against the new coronavirus, as the U.S. military was set to raise its antivirus scheme by one notch.
Effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, USFK will heighten the Health Protection Condition (HPCON) by one notch to Charlie, or HPCON C, for all areas in the country due to the resurgence of COVID-19 nationwide. The decision on the tighter guidance was announced earlier this week.
The country has seen another wave of the pandemic since mid-November, and its daily caseload topped the 1,000 mark for the third day Friday.
"Out of an abundance of caution to protect the force, we must maintain the overall health and safety of our community by applying an immediate, aggressive approach to preventing the virus' spread," Abrams was quoted as saying by his office.
Under the tougher scheme, the third-highest warning level in its five-tier system, only "mission essential" individuals will report for duty, with all others teleworking.
Non-necessary off-post activities are also restricted, such as visiting gyms outside the barracks, clubs, shopping centers and theaters.
HPCON C is likely to be in effect at least throughout the month, as the command said that it will make an assessment regarding the warning level early next year.
USKF also highly encouraged its people to avoid travel as much as possible within the country, and the greater Seoul area and the southern city of Busan remain off-limits except for official and necessary duties.
"Similar to the two previous outbreaks in South Korea, I have supreme confidence that the KDCA and ROK government will be successful in suppressing this most recent outbreak," he said.
The KDCA refers to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, and ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.
Up until Thursday, USFK reported a total of 442 COVID-19 patients, most of whom have tested positive upon arrival in South Korea from the U.S.
Abrams stressed that USFK's antivirus efforts contributed to its "remarkable record of only 30 on-peninsula confirmed cases."
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