March 16, 2020 / 3:43 PM / 21 days ago

U.S. military modifies major exercise in Europe over coronavirus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Monday that it had stopped the movement of personnel and equipment to Europe for a major military exercise because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The exercise, known as Defender-Europe 20, had already been reduced in scope and the U.S. military took an additional protective step, which was announced on Monday.

“The health, safety and readiness of our military, civilians, and family members is our primary concern,” a military statement said.

From Portugal in the west to economic powerhouse Germany to Hungary in the east, European Union countries have tightened frontier controls across the normally open-border Schengen zone to try and contain the spread of the virus.

Several countries banned mass gatherings such as sports, cultural and religious events. The virus has infected 169,000 people globally and killed more than 6,500.

Since January, the U.S. Army had deployed 6,000 soldiers to Europe from the United States, along with about 9,000 vehicles and equipment.

Last week the U.S. military said that the top U.S. Army commander in Europe may have been exposed to the coronavirus during a conference with land force commanders in Europe in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Grant McCool

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