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(LEAD) Military to bolster coronavirus testing capacity amid omicron fears

Defense 14:05 January 24, 2022

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with details throughout)

SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military plans to beef up its COVID-19 testing capacity amid the emergence of the omicron variant as the dominant strain in the country, according to the defense ministry Monday.

Health authorities said omicron took up 50 percent of newly added variant infections last week, sparking concerns over the spread of the more infectious strain in the country.

In response, the military said it plans to enhance its polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing capacity by increasing the number of related workers while expanding ties with private testing facilities.

The military will also shorten the quarantine period for service members returning from their vacations by three days to a week to minimize its burden of handling COVID-19 patients.

The military added it plans to prioritize PCR tests for high-risk members should the omicron infections overwhelm its testing capacity.

"The defense ministry will continue efforts to maintain a robust and unwavering military readiness posture by thoroughly implementing antivirus measures, while ensuring the basic rights of the troops," the ministry said in a statement.

While no new restrictions on vacations or off-base trips are planned for now, the military added it may roll out intensive social distancing measures should the virus affect its mission capabilities.

The military, meanwhile, reported 24 additional COVID-19 cases on Monday, including 22 breakthrough infections, raising the total caseload among its personnel to 3,942.

Of the new cases, 15 are from the Army, four from the Marine Corps, four from units under the direct control of the defense ministry, and one from the Navy.

Currently, 384 military personnel are under treatment. Of the total military caseload, 2,098 are breakthrough cases.

Soldiers get booster shots at an inoculation center in Yongin, 49 kilometers south of Seoul, in this file photo released by the Ministry of National Defense on Dec. 13, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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