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Military bans all off-base travel for soldiers amid COVID-19 spike

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)
South Korea’s military said Thursday it has banned all off-base travel for soldiers until Dec. 7. Officers are instructed to cancel or delay all non-duty meetings and outside activities. Vacations are suspended from Friday.

The military’s antivirus rules, announced Tuesday for soldiers in the Greater Seoul area, were expanded to cover the rest of the nation after a cluster infection involving 70 service members -- mostly conscripts -- at a boot camp in northern Gyeonggi Province alarmed commanders Wednesday.

Conscripts are required to wear masks during the first two weeks of training at boot camp. The initial training involves indoor team-building exercises and classes on military values. Soldiers will then engage in field exercises for the remaining weeks with similar coronavirus precautions taken.

Service members are allowed to take part in religious services inside their bases only, and they will be held online. Ceremonies in general will be allowed as long as they take place on the base alone. But guest speakers are no longer permitted on the bases.

Work meetings will also be held online, and on-duty travel will be reduced to essential trips with as few parties present as possible. Only key field drills will be carried out, without joining outside personnel.

“This is a proactive, stronger measure and we intend to prevent a bigger spread from holding us all hostage,” the Defense Ministry said.

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