|United States Forces Korea (USFK) commander Gen. Robert Abrams declares a "public health emergency" for all USFK commands and all USFK installations to exerciseall "necessary authorities" to protect those under his command from the COVID-19, in this video released by the USFK, Wednesday. Screenshot from USFK's Facebook|
By Jung Da-min
United States Forces Korea (USFK) commander Gen. Robert Abrams has declared a "public health emergency" for all USFK commands and all USFK installations and will exercise all "necessary authorities" to protect the force from COVID-19.
The USFK said in a statement issued Wednesday that the emergency situation will remain in effect through April 23, unless the USFK commander decides to renew it or terminate it sooner.
"The protection of the force remains our number one priority, and we continually monitor and assess the conditions of COVID-19 in South Korea and its presence near USFK installations," Abrams said. "In order to ensure I possess the necessary authorities needed to enforce compliance and protect the force."
According to the USFK, the declaration neither changes the current health protection condition and preventive mitigation measures being taken, nor indicates an increased risk level on USFK installations.
The USFK has been keeping strong preventative control measures in place, restricting travel of its personnel to and from military installations and putting its members at health protection condition Charlie, the second-highest alert level. As of Thursday, the USFK has reported 10 infections of the new coronavirus.
Abrams called for all USFK members to continue to follow existing international, U.S., and local guidance and procedures to prevent the coronavirus spread.
"Declaring a Public Health Emergency is a prudent decision to ensure we remain disciplined and vigilant while fighting complacency," Abrams said. "Now is not the time to lower our guard. Everyone must do their part to protect the force, stop the spread and kill the virus."
The USFK said the commander's declaration of the emergency situation follows the U.S. Department State's decision made last week to raise its travel advisory worldwide to the highest level 4, "Do Not Travel," over the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the South Korean military is also keeping strong measures restricting travels of its members while mobilizing its medical personnel and other service members to help the government's containment efforts including medical treatments, spraying disinfectants, mask production and transportation. The South Korean military has reported 39 infections, with 26 recovered as of Thursday.