US soldier tests positive for virus as South Korean cases soar
By Edward White, Song Jung-a and Kang Buseong in Seoul
A US soldier has tested positive for coronavirus in South Korea, in the first confirmed case for the US military.
A 23-year-old man is in self-quarantine at a residence off-base having visited two army camps in South Korea in recent days.
“KCDC and USFK health professionals are actively conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed,” the US Forces Korea said in a statement.
The announcement came a day after the US and South Korea said they were considering scaling back joint military exercises on the Korean peninsula owing to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. The US has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea to support the country against a potential attack from North Korea.
The number of confirmed coronavirus in South Korea continued to soar as testing efforts were ramped up. The country, one of the worst hit by the virus outside of China, has reported 12 deaths and 1,146 people with confirmed infections after reporting 169 new cases on Wednesday morning, according to the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Almost all the new cases reported on Wednesday came in Daegu, the country’s fourth-biggest city, which has been at the centre of the outbreak in the country. In Daegu, most cases have been linked to a pseudo-Christian sect, known as the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, and a hospital at the neighbouring town of Cheongdo. But there is also some criticism that the government has not acted swiftly enough to follow other countries in blocking travellers from China.
The number of confirmed cases is expected to rise in the coming days. Tests of almost 30,000 people have been carried out and a further 16,700 are underway. The government has promised to test all of the 215,000 members of the Shincheonji sect.
“It still looks like the tip of the iceberg … More draconian measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus,” said Kim Woo-joo, a professor of infectious medicine at Korea University Guro Hospital.