Bases in South Korea reinstate travel restrictions as coronavirus cases grow
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WASHINGTON — All U.S. military installations and garrisons in South Korea have reinstated travel restrictions for service members and their families as the country reports increases in coronavirus cases, a Defense Department official said Wednesday.
The travel restrictions come after U.S. Forces Korea on Monday raised its health protection condition to “Charlie,” meaning there is a substantial risk, after a spike in new coronavirus cases in South Korea, according to a command statement. Only mission-essential personnel are to report to duty while everyone else must telework.
Because the entire country is now designated as “Charlie,” all military installations and garrisons are now in a “red” status, said Col. Lee Peters, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea. Service members and their families will now need an exception to the policy in order to travel to and from South Korea.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon released the latest travel restriction statuses for 231 military installations around the world. Seven installations in South Korea are listed and all had their travel restrictions reinstated.
Those installations are Camp Casey, Camp Henry, Camp Humphreys, Yongsan Garrison, Fleet Activities Chinhae, Kunsan Air Base, and Osan Air Base, according to the Pentagon.
Travel restrictions were put in place in March to try to prevent the spread of the virus within the Defense Department. Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a memorandum May 22 that laid out the conditions needed for locations to allow for travel to and from bases.
“If installation conditions are subsequently not met, the approval authority decides if travel restrictions should be reinstated,” the Pentagon document states.
Installations have to meet specific criteria in order to have the travel restrictions lifted, including their health protection condition to be below “Charlie,” and availability of essential services, according to the Pentagon document.
U.S. Forces Korea also mandated this week that personnel must wear masks when they are off-installation to protect themselves.
The other two installations that reinstated their travel restrictions are Naval Training Center Orlando in Florida and Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Both installations had just lifted their travel restrictions Aug. 10, according to the Pentagon’s installation status list released last week.
Four installations that have recently lifted their travel restrictions are Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, according to the Pentagon.