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Military to tighten antivirus measures at boot camps amid omicron surge

Defense Minister Suh Wook holds a video-linked meeting with top military commanders in Seoul on Feb. 4, 2022, in this photo released by the Ministry of National Defense. (Yonhap)
Defense Minister Suh Wook holds a video-linked meeting with top military commanders in Seoul on Feb. 4, 2022, in this photo released by the Ministry of National Defense. (Yonhap)
South Korea's military plans to bolster antivirus measures at boot camps amid a growing number of COVID-19 infections among service members, the defense ministry said Friday.

The military reported 298 additional COVID-19 cases Friday, more than doubling from the previous day, raising the total caseload among its domestic personnel to 5,490.

Defense Minister Suh Wook held a video-linked meeting with top military commanders and adopted a set of new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 driven by the omicron strain.'

Under the new rules, all trainees will receive both rapid antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction tests on their first day at boot camps. Previously, they took only PCR tests.

Boot camps will extend the precautionary isolation period from the current seven days to a maximum of 14 days and increase monthly supplies of masks from 20 per person to 30, the ministry said.

In addition, the ministry will secure 200 epidemiological investigators in the military by next month and add 350 surveyors in the future.

It will also procure more COVID-19 treatment pills for troops deployed overseas.

"The situation is grave, considering that the number of patients in and outside of the military is soaring, due to the nature of the omicron variant, which tends to spread faster despite having a lower rate of developing serious conditions," Suh said.

The ministry said it would spare no effort to maintain an unwavering defense posture despite the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the government adopted a new testing regime, in which only those who tested positive in rapid antigen tests will receive PCR tests in principle.

In line with the new testing policy, the military said it will also prioritize high-risk groups, including those with COVID-19 symptoms, for PCR tests.

Earlier in the day, the military reported 298 additional COVID-19 cases, including 195 from the Army, 43 from the Air Force, 19 from units under the direct control of the defense ministry, 15 from the Navy and 12 from the Marine Corps. There were also four cases from the ministry and 10 additional patients from the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command.

Currently, 1,394 military personnel are under treatment.

The country's daily virus cases on Friday hit another all-time high, with infections exceeding 27,000 for the first time amid the fast spread of the omicron variant after a major holiday. (Yonhap)

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