South Korea tries to contain coronavirus outbreak in prison

South Korean officials struggled to contain a number of coronavirus infections in the Seoul prison, and the US military nodded to vaccinate South Korea’s South Korean troops as prisoners waved signs from barred windows for help.

The Korean Department of Disease Control and Prevention (KDCA) said on Wednesday that there were 1,050 new cases nationally as of midnight Tuesday, with the total number of cases rising to 59,773 and the death toll to 879.

The justice ministry told Reuters that 771 prisoners and 21 personnel were infected in a prison in southeastern Seoul, bringing the total number of infections related to the facility to 792.

In a statement by the ministry, Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae visited the prison on Tuesday and ordered the separation of infected prisoners and the expansion of exemplary prisoners on parole.

In the meantime, there were pictures in the media with signs in the hands of the prisoners saying “Please save us”.

The KDCA said that a prisoner with underlying conditions died this week from COVID-19.

South Korean defense ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan said in a briefing that the US military will vaccinate South Korean soldiers serving under joint command against the coronavirus at the request of the US Forces Korea (USFK).

“We have notified USFK of our approval to vaccinate South Korean nationals on the premise that inoculation is voluntary and the list of administered will be shared,” Boo said.

American soldiers stationed in South Korea on Tuesday received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The USFK includes approximately 28,500 American military personnel, as well as thousands of other workers and family members.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said at a government meeting that authorities could further tighten social distance rules this weekend, as year-end travel increases the risk of more confirmed cases.

“We have relatively low rate of confirmed cases to population, but about 40% of the cumulative confirmed cases occurred in the past month,” Chung said. “This wave of infections is becoming the biggest crisis.”

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