After a cluster of coronavirus infections, the US Forces in Korea (USFK) announced on Saturday, January 16, that two of its largest bases – US Army Garrison Yongsan and Camp Humphreys – have been put under a shelter-in-place order until Tuesday, January 19.
Camp Humphreys, located south of Seoul in Pyeongtaek, 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 registered at the two bases was not immediately known, but the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Saturday that 18 people connected to the US base in Seoul had tested positive this week. The command has been reasonably effective in limiting the number of infections to a few.
COVID-19 vaccines are being provided to US troops in the region, according to the new cluster.
As of midnight on Friday, South Korea had registered 580 new cases of novel coronavirus infection, taking the total number of infections to 71,820, with 1,236 deaths.
More than half of the country’s 52 million citizens live in Seoul and its surrounding areas, which account for more than 60% of the domestically transmitted cases.
South Korea’s new social distancing guidelines in the heavily populated capital and nearby areas will be extended for another two weeks because they have greatly reduced infections, according to health minister Kwon Deok-Cheol.
“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 remain in place, such as a ban on private gatherings of more than four people and the closing of most restaurants and shops at 9 p.m., Kwon said that certain venues that have been forced to close, such as gyms and karaoke bars, will reopen if they take strict preventative steps.
Health officials have advised people to stay at home during the forthcoming Lunar New Year holidays in early February, as many people fly to see their families.
South Korea, which has avoided a full lockdown or a stay-at-home order, has seen its worst outbreak of infections in recent weeks, with 1,241 cases registered in one day during the Christmas holiday.