U.S. troops headed to South Korea after visiting China must undergo a 14-day quarantine to avoid the spread of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, according to U.S. Forces Korea.
“We are taking all appropriate precautionary measures to prevent any potential spread of the virus,” U.S. Forces Korea commander Army Gen. Robert Abrams tweeted Sunday. “Key for everyone is to follow standard hygiene protocols, and if not feeling well—get screened ASAP!”
Although there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus among members of U.S. Forces Korea, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Korea have identified a total of 15 confirmed cases throughout South Korea.
As a result, the command is requiring all service members returning to South Korea from China’s mainland on or after Jan. 19 to follow a 14-day self-quarantine — even if symptoms are not immediately apparent. Family members and other DoD personnel are also advised to participate in the quarantine following travel from China.
“The directed self-quarantine implementation is mandatory for US servicemembers, regardless if they reside on or off USFK installations, and is highly encouraged for family members, DoD civilians, contractors, United Nation Command military personnel and Korean National employees to follow as well in the interest of public health safety,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement Feb. 2.
While the command said U.S. Forces Korea personnel remain at low risk for contracting the virus, the command added the quarantine is being imposed “out of an abundance of caution.”
On Friday, the Pentagon issued a memo outlining ways service members can reduce the risk of contracting the virus, a move that came after the State Department released a travel advisory to not travel to China.
The Pentagon said DoD personnel returning from China over the past two weeks should receive medical attention immediately, as should those who have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus or are exhibiting symptoms like a fever, in accordance with CDC recommendations.
Likewise, the Pentagon said commanders of “individually affected geographic commands” would issue further guidance.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Friday that Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of INDOPACOM, has restricted all DOD travel to China.
“This restriction is specific to the geographic confines of the [People’s Republic of China], and applies to all U.S. military, civilians and DOD contractors,” INDOPACOM spokesperson Maj. Cassandra Gesecki said in an email to Military Times. “There are no travel restrictions from INDOPACOM for DOD personnel in the remainder of the INDOPACOM area of operations.”
“Additionally, all DOD personnel currently in China on temporary duty and in leave status are directed to depart mainland China immediately,” Gesecki said.
On Saturday, the Pentagon said it is ready to provide housing support for 1,000 people who could be quarantined in the U.S. after traveling from China.
Evacuees could be housed at Travis Air Force Base in California; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California; Lackland Air Force Base in Texas; and the 168th Regiment, Regional Training Institute at Fort Carson in Colorado.
As of Feb. 2, the World Health Organization said there are more than 14,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, and more than 300 deaths resulting from the virus. There are 146 confirmed cases outside of China, and one death.