28,500 troops affected as USFK ramps up to HPCON Charlie for greater Seoul metro area

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U.S. Forces Korea is raising its Health Protection Condition to Charlie “out of an abundance of caution to protect the force” for the greater Seoul metropolitan area.

That’s up from HPCON Bravo, which the Department of Defense says means that the risk is moderate and there has been an increase in community transmissions. In comparison, HPCON Charlie stipulates the risk is substantial and there has been sustained community transmission.

The update to HPCON Charlie will take effect on Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. and impacts a total of 28,500 U.S. military personnel and 58,000 USFK-affiliated members.

“To minimize the potential exposure to others, only mission essential individuals will report for duty with all others conducting telework,” USFK said in a news release.

That also means that USFK-affiliated personnel are barred from visiting locations including bars, clubs, karaoke rooms, off-installation gyms and fitness facilities, and places with eat-in seated dining. Take-out delivery is still permitted though.

Only travel for official and necessary duties in the greater Seoul region, known as Area II, is authorized for the time being. Exceptions require a policy letter signed by an O-6 or equivalent civilian supervisor from the individuals chain of command.

USFK had moved down to HPCON Bravo across the entire peninsula in October, citing “low numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases within the greater Seoul metropolitan area.”

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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.

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