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Defense ministry extends restrictions on troop vacations over pandemic

The entrance of a military unit in the border town of Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, is shut on Nov. 23, 2020, after a cluster infection was reported among service members there. (Yonhap)
The entrance of a military unit in the border town of Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, is shut on Nov. 23, 2020, after a cluster infection was reported among service members there. (Yonhap)

The defense ministry said Monday it has extended a toughened social distancing scheme for two weeks, banning troops from vacationing and taking off-installation trips, to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Since November, the ministry has enforced Level 2.5 social distancing rules, the second highest in its five-tier alert system, following a series of COVID-19 cluster infections at barracks across the country.

"We've decided to extend the Level 2.5 scheme for all units from today until Jan. 17," the ministry said in a statement.

The military has enforced a tougher antivirus scheme than the government's curbs given the unique nature of barracks life, according to ministry officials.

The health authorities on Saturday extended the Level 2.5 distancing measures for the greater Seoul area and the Level 2 for the rest of country until Jan. 17.

South Korea has been making all-out efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The daily caseload has been around the 1,000 mark in recent weeks.

On Monday, South Korea added 1,020 more COVID-19 cases, including 985 local infections, on Monday, raising the total caseload to 64,264, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

Up until Monday morning, the military reported a total of 508 virus cases.

Currently, 431 service members are in isolation in accordance with the health authorities' guidelines, and the military has quarantined an additional 3,386 people under stricter antivirus schemes of its own as a preventive step, according to the ministry. (Yonhap)

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