Contractor banned from bases in South Korea for violating quarantine by shopping at PX and commissary
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CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — An American contractor who works at Camp Humphreys has been banned from all U.S. bases in South Korea for two years for violating coronavirus quarantine orders by visiting base shopping facilities, the military said Friday.
It was the first such action since USFK commander Gen. Robert Abrams declared a public health emergency in late March that gave him authority to punish civilians as well as service members who violate measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.
Abrams announced Friday that he is extending the public health emergency to May 23, saying it also gives him authorities to repurpose facilities on installations and to take other additional measures as needed.
“It’s not really about increased risk. It’s about giving us the appropriate authorities to be able to protect the force,” he said in a community update via Facebook live.
U.S. Forces Korea said the contractor, whose name was not released because of privacy considerations, had been instructed to go into quarantine after having direct contact with a co-worker who had tested positive for the virus.
“The individual chose to non-comply with the quarantine directive and visited the PX and the commissary,” the command said. “This individual’s disregard for USFK’s public health guidance and health protection conditions jeopardizes the safety of all USFK personnel and families.”
The ban took effect on Tuesday, according to a notice by USFK.
“The contractor has finished his quarantine, was tested and results came back negative,” USFK spokesman Col. Lee Peters said in response to a question about the contractor’s current status.
“We are confident that there was no exposure to others as both locations he visited - commissary and PX - are routinely cleaned daily,” he added.
At least six soldiers also have received nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for going to bars off-base or otherwise violating restrictions on nonessential movement off-base, according to the Eighth Army.
Two privates assigned to the 210th Field Artillery Brigade at Camp Casey had to forfeit pay and received extra duty and a written reprimand for traveling to Camp Humphreys without authorization on March 28, violating their unit’s sign-out policy and possessing alcohol while underage.
Two privates first class with the 210 FAB were reduced in rank, forfeited pay and received written reprimands for drinking in a bar on March 14 in Dongducheon, the city that is home to Camp Casey, near the border with North Korea.
A specialist with the same brigade received the same punishment for drinking in a bar on March 20 in Dongducheon.
A sergeant first class with the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade had to forfeit pay and received a written reprimand for visiting an off-post bar in Songtan, the area outside Osan Air Base, on March 31.
Abrams clamped down on civilians after a contractor who works at Eighth Army headquarters tested positive after he continued to go to restaurants in the local community despite restrictions on nonessential activities off base.
That was followed by a spike in infections with a total of 10 contractors who work on Camp Humphreys testing positive. In all, USFK has reported 25 coronavirus cases, including two soldiers.
USFK promised to routinely publish actions taken to enforce compliance with rules to contain the virus “to ensure our service members, civilians, contract employees, family members and the community understand the adverse actions of not following USFK directives.”
Two civilians also were barred from Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, after security personnel found them in an off-base bar in violation of similar restrictions set by the Navy to fight the coronavirus, officials said earlier this week.