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32 Navy sailors from same vessel test positive for COVID-19

This undated file photo provided by the Navy shows three of its vessels.(Navy)
This undated file photo provided by the Navy shows three of its vessels.(Navy)
At least 32 Navy sailors who serve on the same naval ship have tested positive for the new coronavirus, the defense ministry said Friday.

One Navy officer who serves on a landing ship underwent a virus test and tested positive after learning that a teacher of his child's day care center contracted COVID-19, according to the ministry.

The child tested negative, however, and how the officer got infected is currently under investigation.

Health authorities have found 31 more cases of his colleagues so far through virus testing. Of 84 total crew members of the ship, 48 tested negative and four are awaiting their results, it added.

"Contact tracing is now under way. We are also taking necessary steps to deal with the situation," a Navy officer said.

In the wake of the mass infection, Navy Chiefs of Staff Adm. Boo Suk-jong convened an emergency meeting earlier in the day and heightened the social distancing level among its service members by one notch to Level 2.5, which bans them from taking vacation and off-installation trips.

Currently, the defense ministry enforces the Level 2 scheme for all units across the country, which allows vacations under strict antivirus measures.

"All crew members of the country's Navy vessels are now undergoing virus tests as a prevention step. Given their unique service conditions, they are supposed to be in isolation on their ships until the test results come out," a Navy official said. 

Defense Minister Suh Wook also held an emergency meeting of top commanders Friday and ordered stronger antivirus measures, such as conducting COVID-19 tests on service members on a regular basis.

He also called for thorough preparations for the second phase of the vaccine inoculation campaign, which is expected to take place early next month.

In March, the ministry began administering COVID-19 vaccines, and military doctors and other health care workers in the military were the first recipient group.

On Friday, the defense ministry also reported five more COVID-19 cases at the barracks, bringing the total number of patients among military members to 750. Of the total, 678 have been fully cured and 72 are under treatment.

Nationwide, South Korea reported 797 more COVID-19 cases Friday, including 758 local infections, raising the total caseload to 117,458, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. (Yonhap)