Published On: Sun, Feb 2nd, 2020

Viral defense: US military in S. Korea to quarantine troops returning from epidemic-hit China

Fearing that the novel coronavirus outbreak could harm military readiness, the US Forces Korea (USFK) has encouraged members who traveled to China to isolate themselves for a period of two weeks.

“USFK has instituted a 14-day self-quarantine for US service members returning from mainland China to South Korea on or after January 19, effective Sunday, February 2 at noon,” it said in a statement released on Sunday. The measure is also “highly encouraged” for family members, DoD civilians, and contractors.

Meanwhile, the force said it’s unaware of any American troops who traveled to the worst-affected provinces of China. But while “the overall risk to USFK personnel remains low,” the self-quarantine measures “are out of an abundance of caution.”

Any soldier who shows symptoms or is confirmed with the novel coronavirus “will immediately be put under evaluation by USFK medical professionals,” the alert warned.

The US has recently closed its airports for Chinese arrivals, with Canada following suit. Washington also increased its travel advisory for China to Level 4 (‘Do not travel’), earning a sharp rebuke from Beijing which sees it as a hostile move.

However, international bodies have advised against restrictive measures. “Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies,” the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said this week.

The news comes as the death toll from the deadly virus went beyond 300, with more than 14,000 people infected. Just recently, the first victim of coronavirus outside China was confirmed in the Philippines. The patient turned out to be a 44-year-old man who caught the virus before arriving in the country.

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