SEOUL (Reuters) – The authorities in South Korea on Friday asked residents to stay inside and avoid large gatherings as new cases of coronavirus hovered nearly 100 per day, including several people working at an American military base in the country.
South Korea reported 91 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the national number to 9,332, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The country has reported similar daily numbers in the past two weeks, after peaking at over 900 in late February.
The government has tried to convince a troubled public that social distancing and self-isolation may still be necessary for a few weeks to allow health authorities to stem the smaller but still steady stream of new cases.
“As the weather gets better, I know that many of you have plans to go outside,” said Yoon Tae-ho, director general of public health policy at the Ministry of Health, at a briefing.
“But social distancing cannot be successful if it is just an individual, but the entire community.”
The US military command has also attempted to restrict the movements of approximately 28,500 American troops based in South Korea this week.
On Friday, the United States Forces Korea (USFK) reported that an American contractor had tested positive. The third case was confirmed this week among Americans working in the extensive Humphreys camp, which is the headquarters of the U.S. military command in South Korea.
Late Thursday, an American soldier stationed in the camp south of Seoul was tested positive, as was another American contractor who also worked there earlier this week.
That means 12 people – including two soldiers – are related to USFK to test positive.
Officials attempt to track patients’ past movements, including the soldier who was at work and elsewhere in Camp Humphreys on the day she tested positive.
The USFK declared an emergency in the area of public health that gives commanders more powers to ensure that the regulations to curb the spread of the disease are fully followed by movements not only of troops, but also of their families and other working civilians be restricted on the bases.
“We cannot allow the actions of a few, who knowingly and selfishly to take matters into their own hands, to put the rest of the population at an unacceptable risk,” USFK said in a letter this week.
“Managers have a responsibility to do everything in their power to protect all members of the team and to ensure that no one can infiltrate our protective” bubbles “.”
On Wednesday, a Facebook page connected to Camp Humphreys advertised entertainment events for Thursday and Friday.
It is unclear whether these gatherings have been canceled, but new statements on the camp’s social media sites said that as of Friday, any movement based on “was limited to the bare minimum, meaning food and life and health security”.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; editing by Tom Hogue and Michael Perry)