U.S. European Command announced Thursday that it was canceling the remaining portion of a joint missile defense exercise in Israel known as Juniper Cobra over new coronavirus fears.
EUCOM said its decision to cancel exercise was done as a “precautionary measure” to ensure the health and safety of troops, according to a news release.
EUCOM also explained its decision to scrap the exercise was made in “alignment with recent Israeli Ministry of Health guidelines on COVID-19,” the official name for illness, according to the release.
Fears over the spread of COVID-19 have prompted U.S. military officials to cancel or scale back exercises and travel. Some Defense Department schools in South Korea and Italy have been shuttered over the outbreak of the virus.
The Times of Israel, citing the Israeli Health Ministry, reported that 17 people in Israel had confirmed cases of COVID-19. Israel has closed its borders to some European and Asian countries, the Times of Israel reported.
Juniper Cobra is a joint Israel-U.S. missile defense exercise that officially kicked off March 3 and was slated to last until March 13.
The exercise often features a demonstration of the Israel’s Iron Dome system that is used to shoot down incoming rockets fired from militants in the Gaza strip and elsewhere. The U.S. military has expressed interest in a version of the Iron Dome to shoot down cruise missiles and rockets.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that the Pentagon and its command centers were prepared to continue to operate in the event of a local breakout of COVID-19.
“Our national military command center has the capability to go for weeks at a time if they have to be locked down inside the building if we have some type of outbreak,” Esper said.
Esper told reporters Thursday that the Pentagon was finalizing plans to combat the spread of COVID-19 across the military and its installations.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.