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Italy quarantines 16 million as US Army halts military and family travel to/from Italy and South Korea

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, prepare to board a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 86th Air Wing at Aviano Air Base, in preparation for airborne operations onto Juliet Drop Zone, Pordenone, Italy Feb. 21, 2019. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands' areas of responsibility. (U.S. Army Photo by Paolo Bovo/Released)
March 08, 2020

Fifteen northern and central Italian provinces are under quarantine and U.S. Army officials are imposing their own travel restrictions in an effort to stop the ongoing spread of coronavirus.

Around 16 million people in northern and central Italy have been placed in quarantine, the BBC reported Sunday. The U.S. Army Garrison Italy, Caserma Ederle, near the northeastern Italian city of Vicenza has also adopted travel restrictions affecting all personnel coming in and out of the country.

The Italian quarantine order will remain in effect until April 3rd, and people in the affected Italian provinces will have to obtain special permission to travel outside of their restricted areas for the time being.

The U.S. Army Garrison Italy announced its own suspension on travel on Saturday in a telecast to its personnel. The new restrictions in Italy would stop personnel from moving in and out of Italy for 60 days or until further notice.

“Our number one priority is the protection of our soldiers, our family members, our civilian workforce and our Italian neighbors,” said Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, “protecting them from COVID-19 and ensuring at the same time we maintain our mission readiness.”

Col. Dan Vogel, the commander for the U.S. Army Garrison in Italy, noted families that have already packed and shipped their household items will be heavily impacted by the new order and that the garrison would provide support for those impacted. Vogel also said all other appointments for those waiting to have their belongings packed and shipped are “in review.”

“We are developing solutions regarding accommodations,” Vogel said. “Bottom line is we recognize this is a time where soldiers and their families are in a state of flux. We will work with you to ensure you are taken care of.”

The travel order applies to all Army personnel traveling in and out of Italy.

The U.S. Army additionally suspended Professional Military Education (PME) orders for personnel set to undergo training in the U.S. that would last less than six months. Personnel set to seek training courses lasting longer than six months would instead travel to the U.S. 14 days early to undergo a quarantine period before beginning their scheduled training.

Cloutier recognized that the suspended military training courses could disadvantage soldiers seeking promotion. He said “the Army is working on it and we’re waiting for further guidance.”

The U.S. Forces Korea Twitter account revealed the Army’s order to suspend troop travel into and out of South Korea on Sunday morning, setting a similar two month pause on travel.

The orders in South Korea only appear to apply to soldiers of the 8th Army, U.S. Forces Korea said. Soldiers were advised to contact their chain of command for further instructions.

The new travel restrictions come as both Italy and South Korea have seen the large scale spread of the coronavirus. According to The Telegraph, Italy has seen more than 5,800 cases of the virus and 233 deaths, while South Korea has seen more than 7,300 cases of the virus and 50 deaths.

U.S. military officials confirmed the first service member, a soldier in South Korea, to have contracted the coronavirus on Feb. 26.