Globalized Military Deployments Constitute Special Opportunities for Novel Coronavirus Contagion
Feb. 25, 2020 (EIRNS)—Global military deployments and forward military basing are creating opportunities for the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The transportation of large numbers of troops across the world, their frequent operations in the field, and the deleterious effect of combat operations on the health of the populations in the countries where they occur open up more opportunities for the virus to spread. The U.S. military is now being forced to reduce the scale of its operations in some areas of the world in order to protect itself from the virus.
• Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, during a joint press conference at the Pentagon yesterday with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, said that the joint U.S.-South Korean exercise schedule could be scaled back because of fears about COVID-19, a sentiment that was echoed by the South Korean Defense Minister. U.S. Forces Korea has implemented tougher screening procedures at the gates of its bases after the widow of a retired American soldier was diagnosed with coronavirus yesterday. She had visited the post exchange at Camp Walker, near Daegu, twice in the past two weeks.
• The South Korean Defense Ministry also reported yesterday that 13 South Korean soldiers have contracted the virus and 7,500 others are being held in quarantine as part of efforts to stop the virus from spreading further in barracks. “Of them, about 350 people either have shown symptoms or had direct contact with patients. But we have applied tougher quarantine standards as preventive steps,” deputy ministry spokesperson Moon Hong-sik told a regular briefing.
• In Thailand, the annual Cobra Gold exercise kicked off today but with reduced participation by a number of countries, including South Korea. The U.S. military, which is sending 5,500 troops, compared to 4,500 last year, is reinforcing its medical capabilities with additional medical personnel and supplies. The U.S. military insists, however that the risk of infection from COVID-19 remains low.
• With the virus now present in Iran and at least one confirmed case in Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command and the NATO mission in Afghanistan are keeping a close eye on how the virus spreads in Southwest Asia. The one confirmed case is of a man in Herat who had recently traveled to Iran. Herat is also home to an Italian-run regional headquarters for the NATO mission at Camp Arena, which is home to some American and other international troops, but the bulk of U.S. troops are hundreds of miles away in the south and east of the country.