(2nd LD) U.N. Command to suspend Panmunjom tours again amid coronavirus concerns

송상호 / 2022-01-12 18:13:02
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(2nd LD) Panmunjom tour-suspension
▲ This undated file photo shows a soldier standing guard in front of the office of the United Nations Command's (UNC) Military Armistice Commission at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom. (Yonhap)

(2nd LD) Panmunjom tour-suspension

(2nd LD) U.N. Command to suspend Panmunjom tours again amid coronavirus concerns

(ATTN: UPDATES with USFK spokesperson's remarks in paras 7-8)

SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- Tours to the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom will be suspended starting next week due to spikes in COVID-19 infections, the U.N. Command (UNC) said Wednesday.

The UNC will discontinue the tour program to the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, effective Tuesday, less than two months after it resumed the tours in line with the country's "living with COVID-19" scheme.

"UNC coordinated this suspension closely with the Ministry of Unification, and remains committed to supporting ROK government efforts to preventing the potential spread of COVID19," the command said in a statement, using the acronym for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.

The U.S.-led UNC oversees activities in the DMZ. It enforces the armistice agreement that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.

U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), meanwhile, said it has confirmed 1,599 additional COVID-19 cases among its personnel over the past week, which represents a record high number in its weekly tally.

Only 10 of the cases counted from Jan. 4 to Monday were imported, according to the USFK website. It did not offer more details, including the number of breakthrough infections, or locations of the infected members.

USFK spokesperson Col. Lee Peters said that the confirmed case increases are a result of increased testing and can be linked to pre-travel authorization for leave and redeployments, symptomatic testing, contact tracing and those returning from travel outside the Korean Peninsula.

Brushing aside concerns that the rise in infections could affect the allied defense posture, Peters stressed the USFK remains "at a high level of fight tonight readiness and can fulfill our obligation to protect and defend the Republic of Korea against any threat or adversary."

Amid the growing number of cases among its troops, the USFK started banning all personnel from visiting off-base facilities, such as indoor malls and gyms, on Saturday. It also prohibited its members from traveling to Seoul except for official duties.

The total number of COVID-19 cases reported among the USFK-affiliated population totaled 4,262. The USFK said nearly 90 percent of its affiliated community is vaccinated.

(END)

(C) Yonhap News Agency. All Rights Reserved

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