SEOUL, July 14 (Korea Bizwire) — The military called off the already postponed annual training for reserve forces due to explosive spikes in COVID-19 cases, the defense ministry said Wednesday.
It is the second straight year that the military canceled the annual training. The training program had never been skipped before since its introduction in 1968.
In January, the ministry decided to postpone this year’s training for the country’s 2.75 million-strong forces to the second half given the virus situation, though it was supposed to begin in March across the nation.
“In consideration of the COVID-19 status and other conditions for the training, however, we’ve decided not to hold this year’s training for reserve forces,” the ministry said in a release.
Training programs for reserve forces are supposed to involve around 100 to 500 members, which is possible only when the country implements the social distancing scheme of Level 1.
Currently, the greater Seoul area has been placed under the strictest Level 4 guidelines.
Another factor for the decision is that most of the reserve forces are in their 20s and vaccinations for the age group are supposed to begin in end-August to enable the achievement of their herd immunity in October at the earliest, the ministry noted.
“Instead, we will provide online programs to replace indoor education for volunteers, and around 3,000 reservists in charge of major posts of reserve forces units will go through field training on a smaller scale under strict quarantine schemes,” a ministry official said.
South Korean reservists are required to go through one training session of one to three days per year.
The country has experienced a new wave of the pandemic, with the daily caseload hitting yet another record high of 1,615 on Wednesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The military has also reported a series of confirmed cases across the country.
On Wednesday, 13 more newly enlisted soldiers at the Army boot camp in the central city of Nonsan tested positive, bringing the total number of infections at the base to 108, according to the ministry.
It is the largest cluster infection so far among military members.
In addition, four military officers contracted the virus, which raised the total confirmed cases in the military to 1,167, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the vaccination campaign for service members is going on smoothly. A total of 340,544 troops in their 20s, or 86.1 percent of the age group, received their second doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine as of Tuesday, according to the ministry.