Members of Cheonghae Unit have strongly dismissed speculation that some of them had deserted their destroyer while it was docked at a port in Africa.
In a phone interview on Friday, seven crewmembers, who wanted to remain anonymous, supported the possibility that the virus spread when they were loading various food supplies including poorly packaged vegetables despite the fact that local health authorities stated that infection via food packages is quite low.
They cited the fact that the first group of crewmembers showing symptoms were handlers of food.
They dismissed the possibility of infection after a civilian pilot had boarded the vessel, since that person and the crewmembers who came near the pilot wore protective gear.
Their testimonies also suggest that the use of antigen tests on symptomatic patients may have actually worsened the situation.
Crewmembers thought those with symptoms had caught a cold not the coronavirus and were reassured when the results came back negative.
Antigen tests, although they produce quicker results, are known for their low accuracy compared to PCR testing and are designed for use in checking whether antibodies are formed not the virus itself.
Another member suggested that a safe distance aboard the vessel was impossible since they had to share bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms all together.
16 to up to 36 sailors had shared just one bedroom.
President Moon Jae-in, meanwhile, for the first time apologized via Facebook for the mass infection in the Cheonghae Unit.
He posted that he was sorry for the families of the service members and acknowledged failure on his part to ensure that the crewmembers were able to carry out their duties in good health.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.