- South Korea reports new cases of coronavirus as four army soldiers are affected.
- 6,400 soldiers are being diagnosed as a precautionary measure.
- The government raised alert level to the maximum, but reluctant towards imposing additional travel restrictions.
Hours after the government of South Korea raised the alert level for coronavirus to the maximum, the Department of Defense reported the first case of soldiers in the core army being infected within the country.
More soldiers suspected to have coronavirus
Three of the four army soldiers confirmed to have coronavirus were located in Gyeonggi Province and the fourth army personnel was in Daegu, which has been placed under lockdown after a local epidemic broke out.
Yonhap, a government-funded publication, reports the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea is now at 763.
So far, eight soldiers from the army, one from the navy, one from the air force, and one from the Marine Corps have been confirmed as coronavirus patients.
The soldiers are said to have made contact with others that were already affected by coronavirus. As such, the military is suspecting more individuals within the army of being exposed to the virus and is taking various precautions.
For instance, the military requested 6,400 soldiers who visited Daegu and two other cities that have had local coronavirus outbreaks to undergo diagnosis.
Maximum alert underlines the seriousness of the outbreak
In South Korea, there are four alert levels when it comes to both disasters and virus outbreaks: attentive, caution, alert, and serious.
The alert level often decides the scale of resources the central government will allocate to respond to the disaster or the outbreak.
Even up until last week, the central government maintained its view that coronavirus is a level three outbreak, at caution.
But, CCN.com reported that the mayor of Daegu, which has reported 457 confirmed cases of coronavirus alone, considers the situation to be a level four outbreak and is responding to it as such.
It is likely that the stance of local governments including Daegu towards the outbreak ultimately led the central government to raise the level of alertness.
Government under heavy criticism
On February 24, the government of South Korea formally announced that it will not impose additional travel restrictions despite raising the alert level for coronavirus.
With South Korea being the most infected country just behind China, the sentiment around the government’s decision remains negative.
The approach of South Korea does not compare to countries like Austria and Israel that are taking extreme precautions to prevent any local epidemic from occurring.
This week, Austrian authorities stopped a train coming from Italy out of fear that coronavirus could further spread. Italy reported 130 confirmed cases of coronavirus almost overnight.
Due to the rapid expansion of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea, strategists are now expecting severe economic consequences in the near-term.
Researchers at Citi Group said that economic challenges for South Korea are fast approaching, especially as the local epidemic in Daegu and other parts of the country struggled to be contained.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.