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Service members from the 51st Medical Operations Squadron prepare to administer coronavirus tests at Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 14, 2020.
Service members from the 51st Medical Operations Squadron prepare to administer coronavirus tests at Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 14, 2020. (Matthew Keeler/Stars and Stripes)

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SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S. military lifted most anti-coronavirus restrictions for all bases in South Korea on Monday but also said that three service members and a dependent tested positive for the respiratory virus after flying to the peninsula.

U.S. Forces Korea lowered its coronavirus risk level to moderate, or Health Protection Condition-Bravo in military terms, beginning 4 p.m. Monday.

That means military personnel may dine-in at local restaurants and resume other previously banned activities on and off base, although bars, clubs and other adults-only establishments remain off-limits.

All travel within South Korea also has been authorized, including Seoul and surrounding areas that had been largely off-limits due to a high number of infections, according to a press release.

However, the command warned people not to travel to places designated as hot spots and urged the community to continue to practice basic coronavirus prevention measures such as cleanliness, social distancing and wearing masks.

The restrictions were eased in coordination with the South Korean government as the number of confirmed cases nationwide has declined after an outbreak that began in mid-August in Seoul and a neighboring suburb.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 76 new infections on Monday, the fourth consecutive day of double-digit figures, for a total of 25,275. The death toll stood at 444.

The four new USFK cases raised the military’s total to 231 since the pandemic took hold in late February. Most of those were service members traveling to South Korea for new assignments or returning from trips abroad.

USFK has implemented a strict testing and two-week quarantine process to try to prevent the virus from spreading.

The latest patients arrived from the United States at Osan Air Base on government-chartered flights on Oct. 5 and Oct. 17. Two service members tested positive on the first test required of all arrivals, while the other service member and the dependent tested positive on the test needed to exit quarantine, according to a press release.

All four have been transferred to an isolation facility on Camp Humphreys, the main Army base in South Korea, and all transportation assets and quarantine rooms used by them have been cleaned, it said.

Some 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty. Twitter: @kimgamel


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