(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead with vaccine plan; ADDS more details in paras 2-5; RESTRUCTURES)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, March 15 (Yonhap) -- Military personnel will begin receiving coronavirus vaccines starting in June, with those serving in inter-Korean border areas and at command and control centers to be high on the list, officials said Monday.
Under the inoculation plan, the defense ministry began administering COVID-19 vaccines this month, and around 2,400 military doctors and other healthcare workers in the military became the first recipient group.
Around 581,000 rank-and-file soldiers and military officers were supposed to be inoculated starting in the third quarter, but the authorities decided to advance the plan to administer the vaccines beginning in June in phases, the officials said.
They will get AstraZeneca vaccines, they added.
"Mission critical members, such as those in command and control centers, service members working at guard posts or in remote areas, and those serving aboard vessels, among other groups, will get a shot first," a ministry official said.
Starting Monday, the ministry extended its Level 2 social distancing scheme for the military for another two weeks amid a series of confirmed cases among its members across the country.
The scheme bans service members from one-day off-base trips and meeting outside visitors at their bases.
But soldiers are allowed to go on vacations while strictly adhering to antivirus measures, such as a mandatory quarantine and coronavirus tests. Up to 20 percent of members of each base can take leave at the same time, according to the ministry.
Over the weekend, the military reported five new COVID-19 cases, which brought the total caseload at barracks to 622.
The officer stationed in the southeastern city of Daegu was confirmed to have been infected in a test required to exit quarantine, as he has been in isolation after one of his family members tested positive earlier, according to the ministry.
One Army draftee in the border town of Goseong and the other one in Yeoncheon each tested positive while on vacation, it added.
The civilian worker for the Navy in the southeastern county of Jinhae tested positive after coming into contact with his colleague, and the other civilian working on an Army base in the city of Gwangju, southeast of Seoul, tested positive after showing symptoms, the ministry said.
Nationwide, the country reported 382 more COVID-19 cases, including 370 local infections, on Monday, raising the total caseload to 96,107, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.
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