American evacuees from the coronavirus outbreak in China board a bus after arriving by flight to Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb., on Friday. The evacuees are to be quarantined at Camp Ashland, a nearby Nebraska National Guard training base. (Nati Harnik/AP)
CENTCOM suspends leave and liberty for troops over coronavirus fears
U.S. Central Command said Thursday it was suspending leave and liberty for troops and Defense Department civilian workers to and within its area of responsibility over fears related to the spread of the coronavirus.
“U.S. Central Command is taking multiple prudent measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 Coronavirus and to mitigate the operational risk such transmission would pose,” CENTCOM told Military Times in an emailed statement.
CENTCOM said in a memo obtained by Politico that official travel or leave outside the CENTCOM area of operations was not affected.
The New York Times reported, citing the Iranian government, that there were 245 cases and that 26 people had died from the virus. Heath experts argue the numbers in Iran are likely higher.
The coronvirus has spread across the Middle East to Bahrain, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Lebanon, among other locations, from travelers returning from Iran, the New York Times reported.
Over the last week the U.S. military and several geographic combatant commands have had to make a number of difficult decisions from DoD school closures to the suspension of an exercise in Korea over the rapidly spreading virus.
In the Indo-Pacific Command area of operations, U.S. Forces Korea announced Wednesday it was postponing an upcoming combined command post training following an emergency declaration in South Korea as confirmed cases of the virus exploded.