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USFK eases anti-virus restrictions peninsula-wide amid slowdown in new cases


US Forces Korea (USFK) eased anti-coronavirus restrictions for its personnel across the peninsula Monday, allowing service members and their families to dine at restaurants and conduct other off-base activities except for visiting bars and clubs.

The lowering of the Health Protection Condition (HPCON) level by one notch to the second-lowest level of "Bravo" from "Charlie" came as South Korea has seen a marked slowdown in the number of new COVID-19 cases.

USFK lowered the HPCON level to Bravo for most parts of the country in May but had maintained the restrictions for the greater Seoul metropolitan area except for the capital's central district of Yongsan.

The measure took effect at 4 p.m.

Under the eased status, service members are allowed to dine at restaurants, shop offline and conduct outdoor activities as long as they adhere to basic anti-virus guidelines, according to USFK.

"We must keep in mind the risk of COVID-19 still exists, and USFK must remain good ambassadors by being respectful and wearing a mask when out in the local community. Everyone has a vital role in preventing the spread of the virus," USFK Commander Gen. Robert Abrams said.

The US military said it will immediately snap back to a heightened HPCON posture if a resurgence of the virus threat appears.

On Monday, USFK reported five additional coronavirus infections -- three service members, a civilian employee and a civilian contractor of the Department of Defense -- upon their arrivals here. 

They arrived at Incheon International Airport from the US on commercial flights and are now at an isolation facility at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul.

USFK said none of them have interacted with anyone residing within its installations or the local community.

The new cases raised total virus cases among the USFK-related population to 144, most of which were confirmed upon personnel's arrival in South Korea. USFK has not recorded an internal positive COVID-19 case since mid-April, it said. 

South Korea reported 28 new cases of the virus the same day, raising the total caseload to 14,626. (Yonhap)