Pentagon cancels military exercise in Africa amid virus fears

Pentagon cancels military exercise in Africa amid virus fears
© Greg Nash

The Pentagon has canceled a multinational military exercise in Africa after initially announcing that the drill would be scaled back due to coronavirus concerns.

U.S. Africa Command (Africom) announced on Monday that African Lion 2020 was canceled out of "an abundance of caution."

It added that the decision was made “based on international travel restrictions associated with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and to minimize the risk of exposure to U.S. and partner nation service members.”

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Africom said last week that the exercise — set to take place from March 23 to April 4 in Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal — would be scaled back to protect against coronavirus spread.

Africom’s largest exercise on the continent was to involve nearly 9,000 troops — including more than 4,000 U.S. service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps — and 7,000 tons of military equipment.

Eighteen U.S. service members have tested positive for the coronavirus — one of the most recent being a Navy sailor assigned to a ship at port in San Diego. In response, the Pentagon late last week implemented the strictest measures yet to tamp down on the spread of the illness, limiting troop movement, restricting the Pentagon and canceling more exercises.

Late Friday, the Defense Department announced that all domestic travel would be off limits until May 11 for service members, civilian employees and their family members.

New rules for those who can enter the Pentagon took effect Monday.

As of Monday, there were more than 178,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally, including more than 4,000 in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.