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Coronavirus Limiting US Military Across Globe


FILE - A South Korean marine wearing a mask stands in front of the navy base after a member of the unit was confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus on Jeju Island, South Korea, Feb. 21, 2020.

The coronavirus is limiting U.S. military activities across the globe, causing drill postponements and leave suspensions for troops.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries announced Thursday that they were postponing major combined training exercises set for March because of the concern of a coronavirus outbreak, a day after the first U.S. service member tested positive for the virus while stationed on the Korean Peninsula.

Three U.S. Forces-Korea-related persons have been confirmed with the virus, including the 23-year-old male soldier, a widowed dependent of U.S. Forces-Korea and a male Korean national employed at Camp Carroll.

At least 20 members of South Korea's armed forces have also tested positive for the virus. South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told reporters at the Pentagon this week that military members were prevented from taking vacations or moving to different units in an effort to stop the virus from spreading.

FILE - South Korean soldiers wearing masks to prevent spreading the coronavirus, stand guard at a checkpoint of a military base in Daegu, South Korea, Feb. 26, 2020.
FILE - South Korean soldiers wearing masks to prevent spreading the coronavirus, stand guard at a checkpoint of a military base in Daegu, South Korea, Feb. 26, 2020.

The number of coronavirus cases has jumped to more than 2,337 in South Korea, and the death toll has risen to at least 13.

The United States raised its travel advisories for South Korea and Japan this week because of fears across the globe that the two Asian nations could become another hotbed of infection outside China, where the virus originated.

U.S. Defense Department schools in Japan will remain open, U.S. officials said Friday, while Defense Department schools for service members' children in South Korea will remain closed through at least March 6.

Emerging coronavirus outbreaks have also been seen in Iran and Italy, home to about 15,000 Defense Department personnel.

FILE - Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 25, 2020.
FILE - Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 25, 2020.

Air Force General Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that "a fair amount" of service members in Italy were staying home to avoid the virus.

He said some schools, fitness centers and chapels had been closed at the U.S. installation in Vicenza, as a precaution against the coronavirus. The southern European nation has nearly 900 confirmed infections.

Wolters added that the U.S. military also was "anticipating an increase" in the number of coronavirus cases in Germany, where more than 46,000 service members and Defense Department civilians are based. He said the U.S. military was ready to execute plans to prevent the virus from spreading, if needed.

The approximately 70,000 U.S. service members deployed to the Middle East have been prevented from taking leave "to mitigate the operational risk" of a coronavirus outbreak, according to U.S. Navy Captain Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.

VOA's William Gallo and Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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