DoD adopts strict global travel restrictions to fight coronavirus

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The Pentagon has banned all U.S. troops, families, and Defense Department civilians from traveling “to, from, or through” most countries in Europe, South Korea, China, and Iran, which have widespread outbreaks of the coronavirus, defense officials have announced.

“This includes all forms of official travel, including permanent change of station, temporary duty, and government-funded leave,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote in a March 11 memo. “For DoD uniformed personnel, this also includes personal leave and other non-official travel.”

The travel restrictions go into effect on March 13 and are expected to last for 60 days, Esper wrote.

Esper has also banned concurrent travel for family members of service members and Defense Department civilians to countries with a sustained coronavirus outbreak, including Japan, Bahrain, and Great Britain, according to the memo.

That ban also begins on March 13 and will last for 60 days.

Esper has also ordered the Defense Department to defer non-essential travel and determine which official travel to countries that don’t have widespread coronavirus outbreaks is mission essential.

Combatant commanders can make exceptions to the travel restrictions if they determine that travel is mission essential, necessary for humanitarian reasons or "warranted due to extreme hardship," Esper wrote.

Additionally, the Defense Department has ordered that all service members who have traveled to any of the countries covered by the travel restrictions should stay at home or in a lodging separate from others and check their temperatures twice a day for two weeks, a top defense official wrote in a March 11 memo.

“Service members should not travel, visit public or crowded areas, or use public transportation and should avoid interaction with pets or other animals,” wrote Alexis Lasselle Ross, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Those service members who have traveled in the past two weeks to areas not covered by the restrictions should still monitor their health and “practice social distancing” for two weeks, Ross wrote.