South Korea to bring home sailors aboard virus-hit destroyer

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea is sending military aircraft on Sunday to replace the entire 300-member crew of a navy destroyer on an anti-piracy mission off East Africa after nearly 70 of them tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.

Two transport planes will bring home 300 sailors aboard the destroyer Munmu the Great, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Ministry officials said, requesting anonymity citing department rules.

They said 68 sailors have so far tested positive and the results on 200 of the 300 crew are still pending.

South Korea has taken part in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since 2009. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about 150 navy personnel will replace the crew and sail the destroyer to South Korea. Officials said the ship was to be replaced with another destroyer next month following a six-month rotational deployment.

On Sunday, South Korea’s health authorities reported 1,454 new cases, taking the country’s total to 177,951 with 2,057 deaths.

South Korea has recently imposed its toughest distancing rules on its populous capital region, where most of the recent cases have been found. Authorities are considering more stringent restrictions in other areas as well.

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