Military toughens quarantine rules, accelerates booster shot plan

SEOUL-- South Korea's military will strengthen quarantine measures for troops returning from vacation and start a booster shot program earlier than planned amid growing fears of the omicron variant, officials said Friday.

Starting Monday, the military plans to put returnees in quarantine until they test negative for COVID-19 twice. The extra shot scheme for troops will begin as early as Dec. 13 -- earlier than the initial plan to kick it off at the end of this month.

The plans were announced after Defense Minister Suh Wook led a virtual meeting of top commanders to check responses to the pandemic amid a rise in new virus cases following the start of the country's scheme for a phased return to normal life.

"Like security operations, the moment your vigilance loosens, quarantine efforts could flounder," Suh said, calling for stepped-up efforts to overcome the current "grave situation."

Under the current scheme, troops returning from vacation are put under a "precautionary watch," which does not seriously limit their movement, until they get a second negative test. But the new plan would place them in quarantine pending a second test.

The military plans to conduct the four-week extra shot program on Dec. 20, the officials said. When units are ready to begin the program earlier, they can start it as early as Dec. 13.

On Friday, the military reported 38 additional COVID-19 cases, raising the total caseload among military personnel to 2,476.

Three Army conscripts stationed in Yeoncheon, 62 kilometers north of Seoul, contracted the virus after their fellow service member was infected.

Of the cumulative cases in the military, 262 patients are still under treatment. The total number of breakthrough infections reached 755.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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