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37 newly enlisted soldiers at Army boot camp test positive for COVID-19

Dozens of newly enlisted soldiers at an Army boot camp have tested positive for the new coronavirus, the defense ministry said Wednesday, amid fears of a fourth wave of infections across the country.

After one conscript at the Korea Army Training Center in the central city of Nonsan was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, 35 others who had contact with him were also found to be infected, according to the ministry. Virus tests are under way on 400 others to confirm any additional cases.

The infections set alarm bells ringing at the country's largest boot camp as the infected people had all gone through the mandatory two-week quarantine period and two coronavirus tests upon joining the military.

Another conscript at the boot camp, meanwhile, tested positive while in quarantine after his family member was found to have contracted the virus, the ministry said.

Separately, an airman in Seongnam, south of Seoul, a member of the Korean Augmentation to the US Army (KATUSA) in Dongducheon, 40 kilometers north of the capital, and a military civilian employee in Seoul have also tested positive for the virus.

The KATUSA soldier contracted the virus despite having received a single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine in May, according to officials.

The latest cases raised the total number of infections reported among the military population to 1,073.

Nationwide, South Korea added 1,212 new cases Wednesday, marking the highest daily figure since late last year when a third wave of outbreaks peaked in the country.

The defense ministry said 212,389 troops in their 20s, or 54 percent of the age group, have received their second doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine as of Tuesday.

Troops aged 30 and older were given AstraZeneca's vaccine, and they will receive their second shots starting later this month.

The military plans to achieve herd immunity by August. (Yonhap)