“U.S. Central Command is taking multiple prudent measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 Coronavirus and to mitigate the operational risk such transmission would pose,” said Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban.
The ban does not extend to “essential travel,” which includes transit between controlled access compounds and authorized hotels, grocery stores and medical appointments. The ban also does not apply to leave outside the theater, according to the memo.
The U.S. military has been ramping up efforts to counter the coronavirus across the globe as fears rise that the outbreak is becoming a pandemic. In the Middle East, the main concern is Iran, which has recorded the highest number of deaths outside China.
The spread of the virus crossed a major threshold Tuesday when the first U.S. service member tested positive in South Korea. On Wednesday, the U.S. and South Korea canceled exercises between the two countries’ militaries.
On Thursday, reports emerged of the first coronavirus case in the United States that could not be linked to foreign travel, in California.