© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Army Forces In South Korea And Italy Told To Stay Put As Coronavirus Spreads

A South Korean contract construction worker working at the U.S. military garrison Camp Walker in Daegu— the South Korean city hardest hit by the the coronavirus outbreak — on Monday became the eighth person linked to the U.S. military in that nation to be diagnosed with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

"The problem that we found with case number 8 is that he's been sick since last Monday, March 2, and he's been coming through our gates answering our questions falsely," said garrison commander Col. Edward Ballanco in a Facebook Live video of the construction worker, who was found to have tested positive last week for Covid-19. "It's reprehensible, and he will never be coming on post again."

A U.S. soldier and his wife stationed in South Korea have also tested positive for coronavirus.

All of the approximately 18,000 U.S. Army personnel, both uniformed and civilian, and their families stationed on bases in South Korea received orders Sunday to "stop movement." All travel to or from South Korea for those affected is being halted by the order at least until May 6.

The U.S. forces in South Korea have been on high alert for the coronavirus since Feb. 24. There have been more than 7,700 confirmed cases in South Korea.

In Italy, where more than 10,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed — the highest number of cases outside China — a similar "stop movement" order was imposed on the more than 4,000 U.S. Army troops and civilians stationed there at three U.S. bases.

Last week a sailor stationed in Naples became the first — and to date, only — member of the U.S. military to test positive for the coronavirus in Italy.

Nearly a quarter-million uniformed and civilian Americans are stationed with the U.S. military in 176 nations, according to the latest Pentagon report, and another 2.7 million work at military installations across the United States.

Many work at or nearby the Pentagon, located in Washington, D.C.

"We're fully confident that we can continue to perform the functions that the Pentagon needs to perform if we have some type of outbreak in the building," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon last Thursday. "We don't have that yet — knock wood — but we want to be prepared for everything and we're taking a variety of measures."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 11, 2020 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story said all U.S. service members and civilians stationed at bases in South Korea and Italy received an order to "stop movement." In fact, the order applied only to U.S. Army personnel, both uniformed and civilian, and their families.
David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.