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Airmen from the 51st Operational Medical Readiness Squadron demonstrate how to properly swab the nose for an COVID-19 antigen test at Osan Air Base, South Korea, on Jan. 7, 2022.

Airmen from the 51st Operational Medical Readiness Squadron demonstrate how to properly swab the nose for an COVID-19 antigen test at Osan Air Base, South Korea, on Jan. 7, 2022. (Megan Estrada/U.S. Air Force)

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CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — The U.S. military command in South Korea reported its lowest weekly COVID-19 case numbers of the year recently as the country itself experiences a coronavirus bump.

U.S. Forces Korea counted 56 COVID-19 cases during the week ending Monday, its second-lowest weekly count of the year, according to an update on its website. Four of those cases are individuals who recently arrived in the country.

The command reported 50 new cases June 14 to 20, its lowest weekly count this year, thus far, according to its updates. New cases climbed the following week, June 21 to 27, to 111.

Meanwhile, South Korea reported 19,371 new cases of the coronavirus respiratory disease on Wednesday, up from 6,251 on Sunday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

South Korea is “fully capable of implementing medical responses” to the higher caseload, said Lee Sang-min, assistant director of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, while meeting with health officials Wednesday.

“The government earnestly asks the people to continue abiding by [South Korea’s] infection prevention and control guidance, including periodic ventilation and wearing face masks,” Lee said.

South Korea lifted most of its outdoor mask mandate in May. However, face masks are still required for outdoor groups of over 49 people, on buses and subways, and in transportation stations and underground areas. Health agencies still advise people in densely populated areas to continue wearing them.

Nearly all USFK’s orders on social distancing, including mandatory mask wear on military installations, were rescinded as COVID-19 cases declined in South Korea.

The command’s personnel, which includes military spouses and civilian employees, may patronize all off-base businesses regardless of their vaccination status but are required to adhere to local directives outside of their base.

USFK has responsibility for roughly 28,500 troops on the Korean Peninsula.

Nearly 18.5 million of South Korea’s population of 51 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in 2020, according to KDCA.

Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

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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