A soldier uses hand sanitizer to guard against the coronavirus at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, April 2, 2020.

A soldier uses hand sanitizer to guard against the coronavirus at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, April 2, 2020. (Ian Vega-Cerezo/U.S. Army)

Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea will lower its health protection level nationwide starting Monday, allowing personnel to visit Seoul for the first time in months thanks to a decline in coronavirus cases.

The military already had eased most restrictions on service members in May but kept the South Korean capital out of bounds except for people stationed in the metropolis due to fears of cluster infections.

Bars, clubs and other establishments with adults-only entrance remain off-limits in all areas, the command said Friday in an announcement on social media.

South Korea was an early epicenter of the pandemic but has reduced the daily count from a peak of 909 on Feb. 29 with aggressive testing, contact tracing and mask regulations.

Only 20 new cases were reported Friday, including nine local transmissions and 11 imported, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control. That raised the total to 14,519 with 303 deaths since January.

“Based on the continued success of South Korea handling [the coronavirus], USFK has adjusted its current health protection condition to Bravo peninsula-wide, effective Monday, Aug. 10, at 4 p.m.,” USFK spokesman Col. Lee Peters said in a video posted on Facebook.

He stressed the need to maintain discipline and good hygiene including social distancing and frequently washing hands.

“You must remain aware of your surroundings and use common sense, be respectful of our host nation and wear your mask,” he said. “USFK will continue to monitor and assess the situation and will snap back to a heightened HPCOM level if the threat appears within our formations, installations or communities.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now