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US military restricts movement for thousands of personnel due to coronavirus

The fast-spreading coronavirus has forced the US military to restrict the movement of thousands of personnel in the regions overseas most exposed to the virus: Asia, Europe and West Asia, US military commands tell Reuters.

Reuters has learned that there are more American troops under special restrictions — including quarantine — elsewhere.

But the military commands that operate in Latin America and Africa declined to disclose their data.

Almost 10,000 personnel in Asia, Europe and West Asia are under restrictions, illustrating the challenges facing the Pentagon as it seeks to prevent an erosion of military readiness even as big chunks of the force are locked in place. The forces are either in isolation, quarantine or under some other restriction of movement.

The number is still a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of US military personnel in Asia, Europe and West Asia.

US Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon virtual town hall that he expected there could be a low or even moderate impact on U.S military readiness for a conflict or crisis, “based on the numbers so far.”

“This could change. We’ll have to assess it, and we are assessing it frequently,” Milley said.

Each time a US Marine, sailor, soldier or any other servicemember is identified with the virus — and 227 have as of Wednesday morning — the US military seeks to isolate that person and anyone who has had contact with him or her.

The Pentagon has canceled military exercises and put in place several restrictions on personnel, whether they have the virus or not. They are not allowed to travel through or from high-risk countries around the world and all domestic US travel has been halted. The US military has also restricted access to the Pentagon building, including barring anyone who has traveled internationally in the past 14 days.