Soldiers close the front gate of an Army boot camp in the northern county of Yeoncheon on Wednesday, after 60 newly enlisted soldiers tested positive for the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)
Sixty newly enlisted soldiers tested positive for the new coronavirus at an Army boot camp in the central border town of Yeoncheon on Wednesday, the defense ministry said.
They underwent virus tests after one of their colleagues showed symptoms and tested positive earlier in the day, even though he tested negative in an initial test taken upon his entrance into the camp, according to the ministry.
They all joined the military on Nov. 10.
The figure is feared to grow, as the authorities are conducting tests for around 860 new enlistees.
"As of 5:50 p.m., we've found 59 additional patients at the boot camp (following the first patient the same day)," the defense ministry said in a statement.
"While controlling troop movements, we've been carrying out in-depth investigations in close cooperation with related authorities, and will take necessary steps according to the results," it added.
Defense Minister Suh Wook convened an emergency meeting involving top military commanders late Wednesday. He called for stronger responses to the outbreak and better management of troops while instructing the military to maintain a firm readiness posture, according to the ministry.
Earlier in the day, the defense ministry also reported three additional new COVID-19 cases among the military population.
One airman in the central city of Seosan showed symptoms while being quarantined after his unit reported an infection cluster recently, according to the ministry. The total number of COVID-19 cases at the Air Force unit came to 15.
The Army officer stationed in the border town of Paju was infected after coming into contact with a civilian patient, and one enlisted soldier in the northeastern town of Goseong tested positive following a recent vacation, according to the ministry.
Including the 60 new cases, the total number of confirmed cases among the military population stood at 326. The number has been on the rise since mid-November along with the nationwide resurgence of the new coronavirus.
As of 10 a.m., 1,942 service members are in isolation in accordance with the health authorities' guidelines, and the military has quarantined an additional 3,593 people under stricter antivirus schemes of its own as a preventive step.
Nationwide, the country added 382 more COVID-19 cases, including 363 local infections, raising the total caseload to 31,745, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). (Yonhap)