All 304 crew members aboard a South Korean Navy destroyer dispatched to the Gulf of Aden are quarantining in Oman after 27 of them tested positive for Covid-19, the South Korean military said on Friday.
Most crew members are quarantining in a hotel and have taken Pfizer’s Paxlovid pills, South Korean officials said. The positive cases were discovered on Thursday after the crew took P.C.R. tests at a hospital. One crew member had received a positive result from a rapid test taken aboard the ship on Wednesday.
The outbreak is the first group infection in six months among South Korean armed forces involved in an anti-piracy mission off the coasts of East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
A different set of troops in that force, the Cheonghae Unit, was airlifted from the coast of East Africa in July after at least 247 of its 301 crew members contracted the virus. No one onboard had been vaccinated at the time.
In the latest case, the destroyer, ROKS Choe Yeong, departed from South Korea in November. Its crew made no outside contact before docking in the ship’s home port in Muscat, Oman, to get Covid booster shots on Jan. 19, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
South Korea has been reporting some of its highest daily caseloads of the pandemic, including more than 16,000 new cases on Friday. But officials said on Friday that would reduce the duration of the quarantine for incoming travelers to seven days from 10, starting on Feb. 4.
About 85 percent of South Korea’s population has been fully vaccinated, either with the Pfizer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca or Janssen vaccines. Officials said on Friday that they would add the Novavax vaccine to the mix in mid-February.
In other news from Asia:
Officials in India’s capital, New Delhi, said on Friday that they would lift the city’s weekend curfew and allow some restaurants and cinemas to reopen at half capacity. Schools and colleges will remain shut. India reported more 250,000 cases in the 24 period that ended on Friday morning, and the country’s overall positivity rate has been dropping, to 15.8 percent on Friday from 19.5 percent earlier in the week. Delhi’s positivity rate has fallen to about 10 percent, down from 16 percent in recent weeks.
Foreign nationals will be allowed to enter the Philippines from Feb. 16 if they are fully vaccinated against Covid, the government said on Friday. The requirement does not apply to children, foreign diplomats and their dependents, or unvaccinated people with medical exemptions. The local tourism industry had lobbied aggressively for a reopening in recent months, but the government held back as the highly transmissible Omicron variant tore through the country.