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[Newsmaker] Seoul area soldiers could miss vacation, off-base visits

Army conscripts sing a marching song at a basic training graduation ceremony in the southwestern city of Gwangju on Jan. 8, 2020. (Yonhap)
Army conscripts sing a marching song at a basic training graduation ceremony in the southwestern city of Gwangju on Jan. 8, 2020. (Yonhap)
Soldiers based in the Greater Seoul area could see their vacation and off-base leave suspended under the military’s tightened antivirus measures that went into effect Tuesday.

The military began enforcing tougher rules in the capital for two weeks through Dec. 3, in line with government-imposed Level 2 social distancing guidelines in the area. The country, in the onset of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, reported 349 cases in 24 hours ending at midnight on Monday.

All service members in Greater Seoul are to carry out their day-to-day activities in less crowded settings to reduce the risk of infection. Outside guests are no longer permitted at religious services on the bases, and soldiers are not allowed to take part in religious ceremonies outside their bases.

Officers at each base are also instructed to stay put and to cancel or delay meetings that do not involve work.

Meanwhile, the military imposed less restrictive Level 1.5 rules in neighboring Gangwon Province and the North and South Jeolla Provinces. That means soldiers can go on vacation and travel off base, but might be denied permission if their destination includes areas where infection clusters have been reported.

“If we see infections growing, we might have our bases on lockdown and ban off-base travel. But we are not discussing that yet,” the Ministry of National Defense said.

Health authorities said a third wave of transmissions was underway with the daily number of COVID-19 infections hovering around 300. These are the highest levels since August, when the country saw a second wave of the coronavirus linked to mass protests and church services.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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