Following a spate of coronavirus illnesses, the US Forces in Korea (USFK) announced on Saturday, January 16, that two of its largest bases – US Army Garrison Yongsan and Camp Humphreys – had been put under a shelter in place until Tuesday, January 19.
Camp Humphreys, located in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, is the largest US military base outside of the United States, housing the USFK headquarters as well as tens of thousands of soldiers, civilian personnel, and their families.
The number of cases at the two bases was not immediately known, but the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported on Saturday that 18 persons associated with the US military in Seoul had tested positive this week. The command has been rather good in keeping the number of infections to a minimum.
According to the new cluster, COVID-19 vaccines are being supplied to US troops in the region.
South Korea had documented 580 new cases of COVID-19 infections as of Friday midnight, bringing the total number of illnesses to 71,820, with 1,236 deaths.
Seoul and its surrounding areas are home to more than half of the country’s 52 million residents and account for more than 60% of domestically transmitted cases.
According to health minister Kwon Deok-Cheol, South Korea’s new social distance restrictions in the densely populated capital and surrounding areas will be extended for another two weeks because they have significantly reduced illnesses.
“Although it has halted the spread of the third wave of the pandemic and turned into a downward trend, we are not yet in the place where we could let our guard down,” Kwon said.
While the restrictions, such as a ban on private gatherings of more than four people and the closing of most restaurants and shops at 9 PM, remain in place, Kwon stated that certain venues that have been forced to close, such as gyms and karaoke bars, will reopen if strict preventative measures are taken.
Health officials have also encouraged individuals to stay at home during the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays, which will take place in early February, as many people would be flying to see their families.
South Korea, which escaped a complete lockdown or a stay-at-home order, has had its greatest epidemic of illnesses in recent weeks, with 1,241 cases reported in one day during the Christmas holiday.