19 March 2020 14:31
WASHINGTON — The new coronavirus pandemic may have dampened the U.S. Army's major division-level exercise in Europe, but the service's chief told Defense News in a March 18 interview that important lessons have already been learned. Defender Europe was slated to be the third-largest military exercise on the continent since the Cold War and was meant to test the Army's ability to deliver a force from forts to ports in the United States and onward to ports in Europe, and from there to operational areas throughout Europe from Germany to Poland to the Baltic states and other Eastern European nations, Nordic countries and even Georgia. The service had already deployed roughly 6,000 soldiers and 3,000 pieces of equipment from the U.S. beginning in January in support of the Defender Europe exercise, McConville said, and also deployed a brigade combat team and a division-sized headquarters. Meanwhile in the Pacific region, where COVID-19 originated and where many countries have been hard hit, the Army was able to complete a recent exercise — Cobra Gold in Thailand, McConville said. MILAN (Reuters) - Italian soldiers transported bodies overnight from a northern town whose cemetery has been overwhelmed by the scale of the coronavirus outbreak, as the government in Rome prepared to prolong emergency lockdown measures across Italy.
The images of army trucks evacuating bodies underlined the extent to which health services in the worst-affected northern regions of Italy have been stretched to breaking point by the crisis, which has also seen large numbers of medical personnel falling ill with the virus. Italy has ordered the army to move bodies from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak as the funeral services are so overwhelmed. The images of army trucks evacuating bodies show just how stretched the health services are in the worst-affected northern regions of Italy. Italy went into virtual lockdown before other countries in Europe but, with cases still rising, the government is considering even tougher measures that would further restrict the limited amount of outdoor movement currently permitted. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte reportedly said the government would extend the deadline on current emergency measures closing schools and many businesses.
The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the country, owing to restrictions being put in place following the outbreak, which has seen borders closed and border controls introduced. The Slovenian border with Austria remains open for UK nationals, but the FCO has warned there will be no direct flights between Austria and the UK from midnight on Monday and has advised against all but essential travel. The Hungarian government has announced a state of emergency and said on Monday it would be closing its borders to all foreigners, with only Hungarian citizens permitted to enter. The UK government has advised British nationals against all but essential travel to the whole country. The Norwegian authorities have said that all non-resident visitors arriving from countries other than Finland and Sweden would be asked to leave Norway on arrival, prompting the FCO to advise against all but essential travel.
The FCO advises against all but essential travel to South Africa following restrictions announced limiting who can enter the country. Authorities said travellers from high-risk countries, including the UK and US, would not be permitted to enter the country from March 18. The country announced on Monday evening that flights to and from Egypt will be suspended from midday on Thursday until March 31, and the FCO has advised against all but essential travel to the region.