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DOD announces restrictions on domestic travel for service members, civilians

Airmen and their families board an airplane for a permanent change of station in this undated file photo.

U.S. AIR FORCE

By KAT BOUZA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 13, 2020

Read more coronavirus coverage from Stars and Stripes.

The Department of Defense will place restrictions on all domestic travel, including permanent change of station moves and temporary duty assignments, amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, according to a memo released Friday.

The order, which goes into effect Monday, applies to all military and civilian personnel and dependents assigned to DOD installations, facilities and surrounding areas within the United States, the memo stated.

The guidance is expected to be in effect through May 11, according to the DOD.

“These restrictions are necessary to preserve force readiness, limit the continuing spread of the virus, and preserve the health and welfare of Service members, DOD civilian employees, their families, and the local communities in which we live,” Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said in the memo.

The restrictions will also pause civilian hiring at DOD installations and components for individuals outside the local commuting area of vacant positions.

Exceptions to the ban may be granted on a case-by-case basis with command approval, the memo stated, for issues such as mission-essential travel or humanitarian reasons.

Service members are authorized local leave only in accordance with service, according to a DOD email announcing the restrictions.

The announcement comes several hours after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, hoping to free up as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.

"Through a very collective action and shared sacrifice, national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus," Trump said during a press conference at the White House on Friday.

On Wednesday, the DOD implemented broad international travel restrictions to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea — all of which are under Travel Health Notice Level 3 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The order also prohibits travel to countries under a level 2 CDC travel advisory, which includes Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Bahrain, for anything other than mission-essential travel.

That same day, Trump also restricted entry to the U.S. to select individuals from several European countries.

During a briefing Thursday at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced six American service members and seven military dependents were infected with coronavirus. However, three additional service members and a government contractor also tested positive for the virus later that evening.

“The Department will continue to issue additional guidance with regard to the COVID-19 as conditions warrant,” the DOD said in its email Friday. “Our goal is to remain ahead of the virus spread so our military force remains effective and ready.”

bouza.katrina@stripes.com

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