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Pentagon announces 60-day coronavirus travel restrictions

US pentagon building aerial view at sunset (Dreamstime/TNS)
March 12, 2020

The U.S. Department of Defense has ordered military and civilian personnel suspend travel in areas labeled by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as coronavirus outbreak locations, for 60 days.

The travel restrictions will begin Friday according to a statement from the Pentagon. The order bars all military and civilian DoD employees to suspend movement in areas designated by the CDC as “Travel Health Notice Level 3” designated areas – those which have “widespread sustained transmission” – for the 60 days.

The Pentagon order has also suspended all official travel for family members of military service members and civilian DoD employees to CDC “Travel Health Notice Level 2” designated areas – those with “sustained community-level transmission” –  for the same 60-day period. DoD components are also asked to consider what travel is mission-essential in areas below CDC Level 3 and defer all non-mission essential travel.

The Pentagon order will also stop non-essential hiring actions in those CDC Level 2 and Level 3 locations for civilian DoD employees who have not yet begun to travel. That hiring freeze will stay in effect until the Pentagon’s 60-day travel order ends.

People may ask for exceptions to the Pentagon’s travel orders in cases where there is a mission-essential need, or the travel is necessary for humanitarian reasons or otherwise warranted due to an extreme hardship. However, those requesting exceptions must make written requests, to be determined by individual combatant commanders if the individual is assigned to a combatant command. The secretary of the military department or the chief management officer in the case of defense field activities and field agencies will decide whether to approve travel for all other cases.

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The authority to grant travel waivers may be delegated no lower than the first general or flag officer or member of
the senior executive service in the traveler’s chain of command or supervision and the Pentagon has advised that any exceptions these officials do grant must be limited in number and coordinated between individual affected commands.

Those DoD employees who are retiring are exempt from the travel restrictions, but must instead undergo pre and post-travel screenings.

The new Pentagon travel restrictions come as President Donald Trump announced a suspension of all U.S. travel to and from Europe for the next 30 days. Trump already suspended travel to and from China and Iran as part of his earlier response to the coronavirus.

According to John Hopkins’ latest tracking data on Thursday morning, there are now 127,863 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, of which 68,310 have recovered, and 4,718 have died. There are now 1,323 U.S. coronavirus cases and 38 people have died.