July 16, 2021 13:35
Six sailors aboard the destroyer Munmu the Great that is on an anti-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa have tested positive for coronavirus. Another 80 others also have symptoms, the Joint Chiefs of Staff here said Thursday.
The destroyer carries about 300 personnel and crew who typically sleep in tightly enclosed cabins with a central ventilation system, making it a perfect breeding ground for infections.
None of the crew had been vaccinated.
The JCS immediately put its operations on hold. President Moon Jae-in ordered medical staff and supplies to be airlifted as soon as possible.
The current rotation of the Navy's Cheonghae anti-piracy unit was dispatched to the Gulf of Aden off Somalia in February and was to be relieved of its duties early next month.
On July 2, one soldier reported symptoms of common cold but was not tested for coronavirus and only given a cold remedy. By July 10 many others were complaining of symptoms. Some 40 sailors were then given an unreliable antigen test. Only this Tuesday were the samples of six patients sent to a nearby country for PCR tests, and all tested positive.
One officer was airlifted to a local hospital on Wednesday after showing symptoms of pneumonia, a serious sign of coronavirus. "He's in critical condition," a government spokesman said, but it is not known whether he tested positive for coronavirus.
The military took no precautions because everyone on the destroyer had tested negative earlier, a spokesman said. They apparently did not consider the possibility that the virus might get on board when the ship was taking on supplies in local ports.
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