Pentagon halts domestic travel for military due to coronavirus

By Caroline Kelly and Jamie Crawford, CNN

(CNN) -- The Pentagon announced Friday that members of the armed services, Defense Department civilian employees and their family members who are living on or serving at military properties can no longer travel domestically starting Monday, to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

"The continuing spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) necessitates immediate implementation of travel restrictions for domestic Department of Defense (DoD) travel," according to a Defense Department memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.

"These restrictions are necessary to preserve force readiness, limit the continuing spread of the virus, and preserve the health and welfare of Service members, DoD civilian employees, their families, and the local communities in which we live," the memo continues.

The news comes after President Donald Trump said during a televised address Wednesday that travel from Europe to the US would be suspended due to the worsening outbreak, later clarifying that the restriction would not apply to US citizens. The military has felt the effects of the pandemic, as some branches have begun screening new recruits for the virus and US involvement in certain military exercises has been altered in response to the outbreak.

The travel restriction is slated to last until May 11. Service members may take only local leave during that time, according to the memo.

The department said in a statement Friday that the travel restriction "will also pause civilian hiring at DoD installations and components for persons who do not reside within the hiring entity's local commuting area."

Some travel exceptions will be granted "on a case by case basis," and travel for medical services will be allowed, according to the memo. It notes that "our understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, and this guidance will be continuously evaluated as conditions warrant."

The department also announced new rules starting Monday for those who can enter the Pentagon building itself. According to a second memo from the department, all unofficial and international visitors will be "restricted" from the Pentagon grounds.

No military or government employees or contractors will be allowed to enter the Pentagon grounds "if they have traveled within the previous 14 days" from countries for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued the highest or second highest travel warnings, per the memo.

Additionally, public tours of the Pentagon are canceled "until further notice," the memo states -- echoing the decision earlier this week to halt tours of Capitol Hill for the coming weeks, as sources have told CNN.

"All large gatherings, such as retirement and promotion ceremonies, shall cease," the department said in a corresponding statement. "All Pentagon Tours have been suspended since March 12, 2020."

This story has been updated with additional information about restrictions to the Pentagon itself.

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