The Defense Department just halted all travel to COVID-19 affected countries.
(Photo by Army Capt. Ellen C. Brabo, 7th Army Training Command)

The Defense Department announced Thursday the halt of all foreign travel by personnel to and from countries severely effected by COVID-19. Those counties include much of Europe, marking a seismic shift in travel restrictions in the face of a global pandemic.

DoD Travel COVID-19 Restrictions

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper issued a memo, entitled “Travel Restriction for DOD Components in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019. The memo outlines the travel restrictions for U.S. personnel.

“The department is committed to doing our part in the administration’s comprehensive fight against the coronavirus by enhancing the safety of our personnel, helping them stay healthy, and making sure they’re able to continue executing the mission,” Esper said, according to a DoD press release.

Now the DoD restricts military personnel on all personal leave and non-official travel. The restriction includes DoD military and civilian personnel and their families. All non-essential travel through areas considered Level 3 danger by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shall stop. This includes all forms of official travel, including permanent change of station, temporary duty and government-funded leave. The Defense Department also stopped all travel through Level 3 designated countries.

COVID-19 Level 3 Countries

Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.

Esper’s memo also curtails concurrent, official travel for family members of DoD uniformed and civilian personnel to Level 2 designations. The Level 2 restriction runs for 60 days. The memo also freezes DoD civilian personnel hiring actions in Level 2 and 3 locations.

“Our combat commanders, service secretaries and the chief management officer are authorized to grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis,” Esper said during the press conference. “Our commanders, of course, have the authority to provide direction and guidance to the troops every step of the way.”

Along with DoD travel, other impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic include changes to exercises and other training events. Esper said the coronavirus situation is changing as scientists, researchers and medical professionals learn more about it. That means the guidance the department issues will change as warranted, he said.

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