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South Korean Army bans vacations and off-base trips for troops after dozens of recruits test positive for Covid-19 at boot camp

South Korean Army bans vacations and off-base trips for troops after dozens of recruits test positive for Covid-19 at boot camp
The South Korean Defense Ministry has introduced tight travel restrictions for military personnel after a cluster of Covid-19 infections was discovered at a boot camp near the border with North Korea.

Vacationing and non-essential trips off military sites were banned starting from November 27, the country's Defense Ministry said in a statement. Soldiers staying in barracks must now observe stricter social-distancing rules.

"Troops who violate the rules, resulting a Covid-19 infection or its spread to others, will be strongly reprimanded," the ministry said.

The new restrictions came a day after a cluster of infections was discovered at an army boot camp in the town of Yeoncheon near the border with North Korea. As of Thursday, 66 newly enlisted soldiers and four officers have tested positive for Covid-19 at the unit there.

Separately, four officers and a soldier tested positive in three other military sites across the country, bringing the total number of cases in the military to 341.

South Korea was hailed as a success story when it managed to take control of the spread of coronavirus during the early stages of the pandemic. However, the nation has been discovering new clusters of Covid-19.

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The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 583 new cases on Thursday. It was the first time the daily increase in cases had shot past 500 since early March when South Korea was first hit by the pandemic.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said that "more thorough social distancing" is required to tackle the spike in cases.

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