SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- The defense ministry said Monday it has extended a toughened social distancing scheme for two weeks, banning troops from vacationing and taking off-installation trips to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
Since November, the ministry has enforced Level 2.5 social distancing rules, the second highest in its five-tier alert system, following a series of COVID-19 cluster infections at barracks across the country.
"Given the government's decision on the social distancing rules, we've decided to extend the Level 2.5 scheme for all units from today until Jan. 31," the ministry said in a statement.
On Saturday, the government extended the current social distancing level for two weeks -- at Level 2.5 in the capital area and at Level 2 for the rest of the nation -- while easing business restrictions on cafes, gyms and other indoor facilities from Monday.
The third wave of the pandemic reached its peak on Dec. 25 but has been showing signs of a slowdown since.
On Monday, South Korea added 389 more COVID-19 cases, including 366 local infections, raising the total caseload to 72,729, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The military has enforced a tougher antivirus scheme than the government's curbs given the unique nature of barracks life, according to ministry officials.
Among the military population, three Air Force members tested positive for the new coronavirus -- one enlistee in Gapyeong, 60 kilometers east of Seoul, and two officers in the southern city of Sacheon -- bringing the number of COVID-19 cases to 534.
Currently, 341 service members are in isolation in accordance with the health authorities' guidelines, and the military has quarantined an additional 3,005 people under stricter antivirus schemes of its own as a preventive step, according to the ministry.