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US Marine Corps Halts 2,500-Troop Deployment to Australia Amid COVID-19 Travel Ban

© US Marine Corps/Sgt. Kayla D. RiveraU.S. Marines and Sailors with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin 2018 collect their luggage and proceed to customs after arriving at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin, Australia, April 17
U.S. Marines and Sailors with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin 2018 collect their luggage and proceed to customs after arriving at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin, Australia, April 17 - Sputnik International
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Concerns over the COVID-19 novel coronavirus infiltrating the ranks of US troops have resulted in a delay to the deployment of some 2,500 Marines to Australia as part of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) 2020.

Marine Corps Forces Pacific commander Lt. Gen. Lewis Craparotta announced Monday that this year’s six-month rotation of US Marines to Australia would not be taking place in April due to a newly initiated prohibition on overseas travel by the US Department of Defense. 

“In cooperation with the Australian government the MRF-D 2020 rotation is delayed at this time due to concerns over COVID-19, and we agree that force protection must be a top priority for both countries as we continue to fight the virus,” he said, as reported by the Marine Corps Times on Tuesday

According to US Marine Corps Forces Pacific officials, the option still remains for the deployment to occur later in the year. Additionally, equipment and other various supplies will still be delivered to Australia - without any service members accompanying the drop. 

Sputnik reported last week that US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had announced the enactment of a 60-day stop movement order for “all DoD uniformed and civilian personnel and their sponsored family members overseas.” 

“This measure is taken to aid in further prevention of the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), to protect US personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force," the March 25 Pentagon statement read

According to the Times, the order will impact close to 90,000 troops. 

The Pentagon also confirmed Monday that the US military had experienced its first novel coronavirus-related death: a New Jersey Army National Guardsman died from the contagious disease on March 28 after being in the hospital since March 21.

At the time, the department reported that at least 435 affiliated service members and civilians had been infected with COVID-19. 

As of this article’s publication, John Hopkins University’s COVID-19 map reports that there have been a total of 850,583 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the world and 41,654 deaths from the virus. However, at least 177,857 recoveries from the contagious disease have been registered around the world. 

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