U.S. Forces Korea is lowering its Health Protection Condition to Bravo across the entire peninsula, due to “low numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases within the greater Seoul metropolitan area.”
HPCON Bravo means that the risk is moderate and there has been an increase in community transmissions — down from HPCON Charlie which stipulates the risk is substantial and there has been sustained community transmission, according to the Department of Defense.
Even so, USFK said that USFK-affiliated personnel are not permitted to visit any bars, clubs and other adults-only establishments as it enters HPCON Bravo. Likewise, USFK said it may ramp back up to HPCON Charlie if necessary.
USFK had moved to HPCON Bravo for Areas I, III, IV and the Yongsan and Seongnam districts within Area II back in September. But the new order applies peninsula-wide and takes effect on Monday.
“The continued hard-work and diligence of the ROK government, KDCA and local communities to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus has been remarkable,” USFK Commander Army Gen. Robert Abrams said in a recent news release. “The threat of COVID-19 still exists. Our community has been a vital role in preventing the spread of the virus, and we must remain vigilant in maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask when out in the local community.”
USFK has had a handful of cases among service members who have arrived in South Korea from the U.S. Between Sept. 25 and Oct. 12, a total of 24 service members who arrived in South Korea tested positive for COVID-19 either initially or after taking another test after an isolation period.
“USFK’s #1 priority remains the protection of the force,” Abrams said. “We must balance the overall health, safety and protection of the force with mission accomplishment.”
Meanwhile, Abrams is now in quarantine for the next two weeks after returning to South Korea from the U.S.
“I am just following the same protocol that everyone coming from CONUS must follow when they arrive in Korea—test on arrival and then mandatory 14 day quarantine,” Abrams tweeted early Friday.
The results of his first COVID-19 test came back negative, he said. But in keeping with USFK policy, he must receive a subsequent negative test before being released from quarantine.
A USFK soldier stationed at Camp Carroll was the first U.S. service member to test positive for COVID-19 back in February. The 23-year-old soldier was declared virus-free after 49 days in isolation in April.