SEOUL (Reuters) – Authorities in South Korea pleaded with residents on Friday to stay indoors and avoid large gatherings as new coronavirus cases hovered close to 100 per day.
A woman wearing a protective face mask to prevent contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walks stairs in Seoul, South Korea March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-ji
South Korea reported 91 new coronavirus cases on Friday, taking the national tally to 9,332, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The country has reported similar daily numbers for the past two weeks, down from a high of over 900 in late February.
The government has sought to convince a restless public that several more weeks of social distancing and self-isolation may be needed to allow health authorities to tamp down the smaller but still steady stream of new cases.
“As the weather is getting nicer, I know many of you may have plans to go outside,” Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the health ministry, told a briefing.
“But social distancing cannot be successful when it’s only an individual, it needs to be the whole community.”
The U.S. military command this week also moved to try to restrict the movements of roughly 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea.
An American soldier stationed at the sprawling Camp Humphreys south of Seoul tested positive late on Thursday, U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement.
She is the second soldier and 11th person related to United States Forces Korea (USFK) to test positive.
Officials are seeking to trace her previous movements, as she was at work and other locations on the base as late as the day she tested positive.
Earlier this week an American contractor also working at Camp Humphreys – which hosts the headquarters of the U.S. military command in South Korea – tested positive.
USFK declared a public health emergency, which gives commanders more authority to ensure “total force compliance” with regulations aimed at stopping the spread of the disease by restricting the movements of not only troops, but also their families, as well as other civilians who work on the bases.
“We cannot allow the actions of a few, who knowingly and selfishly take matters into their own hands, place the rest of population at an unacceptable level of risk,” USFK said in a letter this week.
“Leaders have a responsibility to do everything in their power to protect all members of the team and make certain no one can infiltrate our protective ‘bubbles’.”
Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Editing by Tom Hogue and Michael Perry