15:08 GMT09 April 2020
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    US Indo-Pacific Command has cancelled Exercise Balikatan 2020 scheduled for May 4-15 in the Republic of the Philippines due to the concerns for health and safety of the participants.

    Exercise Balikatan was cancelled "in light of extraordinary circumstances surrounding COVID-19 pandemic", the US Indo-Pacific Command statement reads.

    ​The US remains committed to the US-Philippines Mutual Defence Treaty, the statement adds. 

    ​Balikatan is an annual exercise between the United States and the Republic of Philippines, and involves participation from Australia.

    As of Thursday, the US Defense Department has confirmed that 280 US service members have been infected with COVID-19.

    Earlier, the United States overtook China as the country with the highest number of COVID-19 infections with the novel strain of coronavirus, Johns Hopkins University revealed on its website.

    The data provided by Johns Hopkins University revealed that there are 82,404 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in the United States versus China’s 81,782.

    By Thursday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines had risen to 707, after the country’s Department of Health registered 71 new cases of the disease.

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    Philippines, US, Balikatan, COVID-19
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