The US Department of Defence (DoD) has ordered personnel and their families to halt all travel to countries affected by the Covid-19 coronavirus starting today.

The DoD said it decided to ‘safeguard the health and safety of military and civilian personnel and their families.’

Secretary of Defence Mark Esper announced the measures yesterday in a memo entitled: “Travel restriction for DoD components in response to coronavirus disease 2019.”

Esper said: “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.”

Beginning today, all DoD civilian and military personnel and their families should not travel to, from, or through areas affected by the virus for the next 60 days. These restrictions include official travel, change of station, temporary duty, and government-funded leave.

The DoD also asks that personnel planning travel should not go through areas affected by the virus. The countries designated by the DoD to avoid are 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.

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The memo issued by Esper also calls on its components to examine all travel and only approve it when it is seen as ‘mission-essential’.

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

Elsewhere several exercises involving US forces have been affected. Defender Europe 20 was originally set to see 20,000 personnel travel from the US to Europe however this is now being modified due to Covid-19 fears.