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An airman wears a mask while leaving an exchange store at Osan Air Base, Japan, Jan. 7, 2022.
An airman wears a mask while leaving an exchange store at Osan Air Base, Japan, Jan. 7, 2022. (Jazzmin Spain/Stars and Stripes)

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CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — The number of COVID-19 cases within U.S. Forces Korea more than doubled over the past week and set another pandemic record, according to USFK on Wednesday.

The command in a news release confirmed another 1,599 new cases of the coronavirus respiratory disease for the week ending Monday. That’s more than twice the all-time high of 682 infections for the week ending Jan. 3 and more than three times the 467 counted the week prior to that.

Ten of the new cases are individuals who recently arrived in South Korea; the remainder were locally generated, according to USFK.

South Korea reported 4,388 new infections Tuesday, up from 3,095 cases from the previous day, but below the daily record of 7,849 on Dec. 15, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Gyeonggi province, where Camp Humphreys is located, counted 1,629 new cases Wednesday, according to the KDCA. Humphreys, which is accessed each day by about 32,000 people, is home to USFK, Eighth Army and U.N. Command.

USFK spokesman Army Col. Lee Peters said the increase in COVID-19 infections is “a result of increased testing” among its personnel, including those returning to South Korea.

“USFK continues to monitor the current COVID-19 situation within USFK and South Korea and makes necessary assessments on a daily basis as needed,” he wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes on Wednesday. “We can reassure our USFK and South Korean communities that we remain at a high level of … readiness and can fulfill our obligation to protect and defend [South Korea] against any threat or adversary.”

USFK, which is responsible for about 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, did not disclose the installations where the new, locally generated infections arose, citing “a matter of policy,” according to Peters. The command until late 2021 regularly provided detailed information on case numbers, duty status and origin of infected individuals.

The new coronavirus surge prompted USFK on Saturday to elevate its health-risk level and impose additional social distancing restrictions for its personnel. The command moved to condition Bravo-plus and banned dining in restaurants, visits to shopping malls, bars, clubs, off-installation gyms, movie theaters, amusement parks and festivals.

Travel to Seoul is limited to official duties “due to the associated risk of potential exposure to the virus,” USFK said Saturday.

Temporarily closures were reported throughout U.S. military installations in recent weeks, including finance and travel offices, restaurants and youth centers, due to contact tracing and deep cleaning.

U.N. Command also announced it will suspend tours to the Joint Security Area at the border with North Korea starting Jan. 18, “due to concerns of recent increases in COVID-19 infections.”

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