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[Newsmaker] US military asks Seoul lab to test troops outside Korea

United States Forces Korea in combat training (Yonhap)
United States Forces Korea in combat training (Yonhap)

A Seoul-based lab tested 72 American troops positive for the novel coronavirus, but the US military in Korea said they belonged to soldiers stationed elsewhere, a local report said Sunday.

A US hospital at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, where the US military here is headquartered, sent clinical specimens to the lab, and it shared the results with the city of Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, as it was bound by law to do so.

The city pressed United States Forces Korea for more details, but it only confirmed that those diagnosed with COVID-19 were US troops on duty elsewhere and not in Korea.

The local report said the specimens sent to the lab for testing were all numbered, rather than named, so the examinees were not identified.

Upon learning the news, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered every lab in the country not to run virus tests on unidentifiable samples.

Pyeongtaek is pushing to test every US citizen working for USFK at Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base but living off the bases. It said it hopes to sign an agreement with the US military to share information about coronavirus infections. The US military said it would review the city’s request.

Over the weekend, USFK had reported a series of additional infections, bringing the total tally to 19, including soldiers, their family members and contractors. The patients were scattered across Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, as well a base in Daegu.

By Choi Si-young (