A draftee who joined a military boot camp for his mandatory service has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the defense ministry said Thursday.
The trainee, whose identity was withheld, entered the boot camp located in the southeastern city of Daegu on Tuesday, but he was sent home after he was found to have contracted COVID-19, according to the ministry.
"Four new members who had direct contact with the patient have been isolated, and further virus tests are now under way," ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said in a regular briefing.
Since last week, the military authorities have tested all new enlistees for the virus in a move to stem the spread of the virus into the barracks, after the military witnessed infections related to clubs and bars in Seoul's multicultural district of Itaewon.
Last week, all the 4,634 people who joined the military tested negative for the virus. Excluding the trainee patient, thousands of other new members this week all tested negative, according to the ministry.
But the enlistee patient is not included in the military's own statistics of virus cases, as newcomers earn status as military members one week after joining a boot camp. All able-bodied South Korean men must serve about two years in the armed forces.
The number of coronavirus patients among the military population remains at 52, and 12 of them are believed to be linked to nightlife facilities in Itaewon, according to the ministry.
Currently, 24 are quarantined in accordance with health authorities' guidelines. In addition, the authorities have put 1,149 service personnel in isolation as a preventive step, the ministry said.
On Thursday, South Korea reported 79 more cases of the virus, the largest figure in nearly two months, bringing the nation's total infections to 11,344, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). (Yonhap)