Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered a stop to all troop movement overseas for 60 days to attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the military, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
The stop movement order will apply to all U.S. forces, civilian personnel and families - including those scheduled to return stateside and those scheduled to deploy - with some exceptions, Esper first told Reuters on Wednesday.
“This measure is taken to aid in further prevention of the spread of COVID-19, to protect U.S. personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force,” according to the Department of Defense (DOD) statement.
The new order will not impact “the continued drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which is scheduled to be complete within 135 days following the signed agreement.”
There are 227 service members, 81 civilian employees, 67 dependents and 40 contractors who have tested positive for the illness COVID-19.
To slow the spread in its ranks, the Defense Department also on Wednesday raised the military's health protection level to its second-highest setting for all military installations globally.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon froze most domestic travel until May 11 for service members, civilian employees and their family members.
The latest order builds upon those restrictions and will impact “exercises, deployments, redeployments,” among other activities.
About 90,000 service members are expected to be impacted by the latest freeze.
The Pentagon notes that exceptions may exist for medical providers and patients seeking treatment, Navy ship deployments if they will be in transit for 14 days, and individuals who are already in the midst of travel.
Additional exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis where travel is deemed mission essential, humanitarian or needed due to extreme hardship, the statement adds.