Military leaders have decided to reduce the purview of the multinational exercise African Lion that’s scheduled for this month amid outbreak of coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
The exercise, the largest one organized by U.S. Army Africa, is slated to kick off on March 23 and involve more than 9,000 troops from more than a dozen countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom.
U.S. Army Africa commander Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier Jr. told reporters in February that 4,000 U.S. service members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps would participate in exercise.
While the exercise has not been canceled, components of the exercise that would require lodging troops in close quarters will be eliminated this year. However, an academics portion that is already underway will continue normally.
“The safety and protection of all of our forces — U.S. and partner nation — is a priority. Modifying the exercise still improves readiness while minimizing risk to protect both U.S. and partner forces,” AFRICOM commander Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said in a news release. “While the scope of the exercise will adjust, our commitment to our African partners endures.”
Exercise African Lion isn’t the only military exercise that has been impacted by COVID-19. For example, the U.S. military ramped up its medical efforts at the annual and multinational exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand that got underway last month to prevent service members from contracting the virus.
According Marine Corps Capt. George McArthur, a spokesman for the Cobra Gold 2020 Combined-Joint Information Bureau, additional medical personnel and supplies were available during the exercise.
All U.S. joint forces were also screened before and upon their arrival in Thailand, said Army Lt. Col. Luke Mease, the senior medical authority deployed to Cobra Gold 2020.
Despite increased precautions, multiple service members and dependents all over the world have been infected with COVID-19, including a soldier in South Korea, a sailor in Italy, and a Marine in Virginia.
Additionally, U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli and some of his staff have decided they will work remotely as they self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after potentially coming in contact with someone infected with the virus.
There are more than 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, and nearly 4,000 deaths as a result, according to the World Health Organization.