General Robert Abrams “Act early, with all your might,” is the advice General Robert Abrams gives to fight coronavirus. He is the top US general in South Korea. “It would seem like an overreaction, but a week later, your community will understand, your unit will.” General Abrams, who spoke for VOA and CNN simultaneously, commands 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea.
It was the first American community on the front lines against coronavirus. Efforts by US troops in South Korea to curb the outbreak of the epidemic provide important lessons in the global fight against COVID-19. Fast response The most important lesson, according to Mr. Abrams, is immediate and determined action. “It simply came to our notice then. The virus has a very high rate of infection. ” In South Korea this is clearer than anywhere else.
That country announced the first case on January 20. Cases remained relatively low for several weeks, until a 61-year-old woman, the 31st confirmed case in the country, attended a religious gathering after being infected with coronavirus. Within a week, thousands of cases were registered in South Korea with more than half linked to the religious group. “One man is enough,” Mr Abrams said, noting the so-called 31-year-old South Korean patient.
South Korea was able to extinguish the group infection thanks to its campaign for rapid coronavirus testing, investigations to determine the origin of the infection and the isolation of the individuals involved. So far, the US military in South Korea has avoided “super spread.” As of Friday, only 17 individuals associated with U.S. forces in South Korea, including two uniformed members, tested positive for COVID-19. Fighting complacency As the number of people infected with the US military has risen over the past week, Mr Abrams has introduced new austerity measures. At Camp Humpreys, the largest U.S. base in South Korea, life has changed dramatically.
Gyms have been closed while taxi and bus services have been suspended. In some cases, queues are formed outside the store, as only 100 people are allowed in at a time. Last week, Mr Abrams declared a public health emergency, giving him higher powers to impose restrictions on civilian workers, contractors and military families.
The move came after an American contractor became infected with the virus after eating at a local restaurant, in violation of regulations. “The battle now is actually about self-satisfaction to ensure that every individual is vigilant. It’s hard within a community, but what people need to understand about this enemy is that it’s enough for a person just not to follow instructions.
This endangers the health of everyone else, which would be almost immediate, “said General Abrams. Military readiness Mission-related activities have changed. Aircraft mechanics, for example, are divided into teams. “If an individual within a team gets sick, all the other mechanics will not be affected.” The general says this has been done for pilots who have been grouped instead of changing schedules, making it easier to detect routes of infection if the need arises.
These measures could affect military readiness, especially if they last for a long time, says Mr Abrams. He expressed confidence that a balance could be struck between combat readiness and health security. “We are still flying to detect, eavesdrop and gather information. Our helicopters are still flying and we are conducting routine training. We have had to make some adjustments, but we are all capable of doing our job. ” The US military must confront the coronavirus and at the same time keep North Korea under surveillance. The threat was highlighted last month when North Korea tested a record number of short-range missiles.
Other challenges The situation on the ground has become even more complicated this week as the US military temporarily released 4,000 South Korean civilian workers amid blocked military negotiations to cut costs between Washington and Seoul. “I’ve been calling and communicating by email with Washington all along,” Mr Abrams said of the State Department’s cost-sharing talks for the US side. Asked if the military is able to withstand the temporary dismissal of local civilian workers, given the situation with coronavirus, Mr. Abrams replied: “I have no other choice. This is part of our duties and responsibilities.”
Towards the future Nearly two months after the outbreak of coronavirus in South Korea, the United States and much of the world are now learning the same lessons as those in South Korea.
An important lesson is that even when the virus appears to have stopped, the battle is not over. “I’m not going to lower the curve, but to completely flatten it,” said General Abrams.