U.S. military base in Seoul reports multiple COVID-19 cases

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Jan. 14 (UPI) — A large U.S. military base in central Seoul is reporting multiple COVID-19 cases as South Korea struggles to keep up with the novel coronavirus.

U.S. Forces Korea said Thursday seven USFK-affiliated people at Yongsan Garrison tested positive for the novel coronavirus Wednesday.

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Five out of the seven people, who were not identified by name, work for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“All five have been in self-quarantine at their separate off-installation residences since Jan. 8 following their direct contact with an individual who recently tested positive for COVID-19,” USFK said.

On Thursday, USFK said the remaining two new cases included a U.S. military contractor’s spouse and a “Department of Defense civilian who does not have a direct relationship with the other six individuals.”

The U.S. military on the peninsula said it is working with the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on contact tracing to “determine whether anyone else may have been exposed.” Seoul is home to more than 9.7 million people.

South Korea continues to report hundreds of new cases, but daily cases are down from December, when the country regularly reported about 1,000 cases per day.

Local television network KBS said Thursday that Korea has reported 500 cases daily on average for the fourth-straight day, but authorities remain on guard.

Seoul has urged the public to cancel all private gatherings, after a missionary school became the epicenter of a new outbreak.

The BTJ Center for All Nations in Sangju, North Gyeongsang Province, is the source of more than 700 cases reported over recent days, according to Singapore’s Strait Times on Thursday.

In the city of Suwon, a South Korean soldier and a civilian official of a South Korean army unit tested positive for the coronavirus, Seoul said Thursday, according to Yonhap.

President Moon Jae-in said COVID-19 vaccines will be available in the country and free inoculations for all citizens are to begin in February. South Korea has reported more than 70,000 cases and 1,195 deaths since the start of the pandemic.