South Korea will start restricting all enlisted soldiers from vacationing, staying outside their bases and meeting visitors this weekend, the defense ministry said Thursday, after the Navy reported the first suspected coronavirus case among the country's service members.
The restrictions, set to go into effect on Saturday, came at a meeting of top defense and uniformed officials, which was presided over by Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.
"Based on the recommendations from each armed service, Defense Minister Jeong decided to restrict them from going on vacation, staying out of their installations, staying out overnight and meeting visitors, starting from Feb. 22," the ministry said.
A 22-year-old Navy sailor on the southern island of Jeju tested positive Thursday for the COVID-19 virus in an initial examination, government officials said.
The final test result will be available the following day, according to the officials. If confirmed, it will mark the first confirmed case among service personnel in South Korea.
The sailor visited his hometown, Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from Feb. 13-18. Upon returning to the base, he showed symptoms, such as coughing, prompting the authorities to immediately quarantine him at the base.
At the meeting, the defense minister called for "extraordinary measures" to contain the spread of the virus.
"I call on you to ensure military readiness while stably commanding your units while recognizing the gravity of the situation," Jeong said.
The Air Force has also taken steps to fend off the virus after a parent of cadet who attended the entrance ceremony of the Air Force Academy on Monday was known to have contracted the novel virus. The cadet has been under quarantine.
Earlier in the day, South Korea reported its first death of a coronavirus patient, with the total number of the country's confirmed cases standing at 104. (Yonhap)