Second military exercise in Africa canceled within a week due to coronavirus epidemic
U.S. Africa Command for the second time in a week canceled a multinational military exercise on the continent after initially announcing that the drill would be scaled back due to coronavirus concerns.
Exercise Phoenix Express 2020 was canceled “for force protection considerations,” Africom said in a statement on Tuesday.
It added that the decision not to continue with the wargame “comes in response to the global effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), while minimizing exposure of U.S. and partner nation service members to this virus.”
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Africom on Monday also canceled its largest exercise on the continent, African Lion 2020, which was set to take place from March 23 to April 4 in Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal and involve nearly 9,000 troops — including more than 4,000 U.S. service members.
So far, 18 U.S. service members have tested positive for coronavirus, as have 13 dependents, three civilians and three contractors.
Phoenix Express, planned for April 5 to 18 in the Mediterranean Sea, is meant to “promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea and territorial waters of participating North African nations.”
The command said that it plans to hold the exercise in 2021.
Fears over the coronavirus prompted the Pentagon late last week to announce 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 then took effect Monday.
As of Tuesday, there were more than 190,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally, including more than 5,200 in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.