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U.S. Forces Korea counted 485 new COVID-19 cases during a seven-day period ending Monday, March 21, 2022.

U.S. Forces Korea counted 485 new COVID-19 cases during a seven-day period ending Monday, March 21, 2022. (Jazzmin Spain/Stars and Stripes)

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CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Fully vaccinated American troops, family members and military contractors are no longer required to quarantine upon arrival in South Korea.

U.S. Forces Korea, the command responsible for roughly 28,500 troops on the peninsula, announced in a press release Tuesday that it has done away with a mandatory seven-day COVID-19 quarantine for international arrivals “based on recent [South Korea] policy changes.”

South Korea’s government on Monday dropped a similar policy for vaccinated travelers; however, those who arrive from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Myanmar are still required to isolate.

To meet USFK’s fully vaccinated qualification, personnel must have either received a single or two-dose COVID-19 vaccine regimen within 14 to 180 days, or received the full vaccine series and a booster shot.

USFK personnel must still undergo a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test upon arrival and an antigen test on the sixth or seventh day in South Korea. Those who are fully vaccinated and receive a negative PCR test result “shall have freedom of movement” on and off post, the command’s press release said.

A seven-day quarantine is still mandatory for new arrivals who are not fully vaccinated. Non-vaccinated individuals who are returning to South Korea are allowed to quarantine in their residence after approval from their chain of command.

USFK counted 485 new COVID-19 cases in the seven-day period ending Monday. That’s up from the 302 cases it reported during the weeklong period ending March 14.

South Korea recorded 353,980 new cases and 384 deaths on Tuesday. Around 87.6% of the country’s 51 million people has received the first dose of a vaccine and 63.2% has received a booster shot.

Gyeonggi, South Korea’s most populous province, reported 96,257 new cases on Tuesday. Seoul, the capital city, reported the second-highest number of infections, 65,033, the same day.

The quarantine policy changes come nearly a week after the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency counted over 621,000 new COVID-19 cases on March 17 — the country’s highest one-day tally of the pandemic. That day’s death toll, 429, was also a record.

“USFK remains at a high level of readiness, and continues to maintain a robust combined defense posture to protect [South Korea] against any threat or adversary while implementing and maintaining prudent preventive control measures to protect the force,” the command said in its release.

Seoul continues to be off-limits to USFK personnel unless for official duties or to visit the Dragon Hill Lodge at Yongsan Garrison. Personnel are required “to follow all local laws, rules and directives,” including social distancing measures and wearing face masks in public, the release said.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.
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