(ATTN: ADDS more info, new quotes in paras 5, 8-9)
SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- Forty-two people affiliated with the U.S. military, including 37 service members, have tested positive for the new coronavirus upon their arrival in South Korea, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Monday.
Of the total, eight service members and a dependent arrived at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, on government-chartered flights while 29 service members, a civilian and three dependents arrived here on commercial flights via Incheon International Airport, west of the capital, according to the U.S. military.
They all arrived between Dec. 28 and Friday.
All of them have been transferred to isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients at the U.S. military bases in South Korea.
"The high number of USFK-affiliated confirmed with COVID-19 was due to the normal individual relocation moves to USFK, as well as those returning to USFK from off-peninsula over the Christmas and New Year holiday period," a USFK official said, stressing that "none of the new arrivals have interacted with anyone residing within USFK installations or the local community."
The latest cases raised the total number of infections reported among the USFK-related population to 581, most of whom tested positive upon their arrival here from the United States.
Starting Friday, foreigners arriving at South Korean airports must present a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of their departure to the nation.
But the Seoul government has granted USFK a week-long grace period on the new rules, according to officials.
"As the number of USFK personnel moving to South Korea is high, we accepted its request for some time to prepare procedures for its service members to go through virus tests before departure," a health official said.
USFK said 35 of the newly confirmed patients tested positive on their first mandatory COVID-19 test prior to entering quarantine and one was confirmed infected on a subsequent test, while the others tested positive on a test required to exit quarantine.
All USFK-affiliated individuals arriving in South Korea are required to undergo a virus test and quarantine for 14 days. Medical personnel administer a second test prior to their release.
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