(ATTN: ADDS access ban to Yongsan garrison, new COVID-19 cases, in last 3 paras)
SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) decided Tuesday to maintain its antivirus alert at the current level for all areas of South Korea amid the continued spread of the virus in the country.
In early December, USFK enforced the Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie, or HPCON C, the third-highest warning level in its five-tier system and extended the scheme twice to Jan. 12.
"Based on the continued high numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Korea, USFK will remain in HPCON Charlie and will make an official reassessment of our HPCON level on Jan. 19," USFK tweeted.
Under the guidance, only "mission essential" individuals will report for duty, while all others work remotely.
Non-necessary off-post activities are also restricted, such as visiting gyms outside the barracks, clubs, shopping centers and theaters.
South Korea has been experiencing another wave of the pandemic since mid-November. The daily caseload has fallen below 1,000 recently after hovering around the mark for weeks. On Tuesday, the country added 537 more COVID-19 cases, including 508 local infections.
USFK also banned "all leisure travel" to its Yongsan garrison in Seoul, starting on Tuesday through Saturday, as contact tracing is under way there for the latest positive COVID-19 cases.
Earlier in the day, the U.S. military reported two additional patients on the Yongsan base, saying that "team clean is occurring and all contacts are currently being informed." Other details were not immediately known.
The latest cases brought the total number of infections among USFK-affiliated individuals to 583, most of whom tested positive upon arrival in South Korea from the U.S.
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