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Pentagon reinstates military travel restrictions amid vaccine rollout

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Anna Murray opens the first box of COVID-19 vaccinations delivered to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on Sunday. Photo by Jessi Monte/U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Anna Murray opens the first box of COVID-19 vaccinations delivered to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on Sunday. Photo by Jessi Monte/U.S. Air Force

Dec. 31 (UPI) -- The majority of military installations have reinstated travel restrictions as COVID-19 case counts spike among military members and the federal government continues its rollout of the vaccine.

According to a Pentagon document published this week, 59 of 62 naval bases had travel restrictions reinstated, and 140 of 231 U.S. military installations around the world -- or 71% -- were under some form of restriction.

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Among Navy bases, just Naval Station Rota in Spain, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and Naval Support Activity Bahrain were open for travel.

A little under half -- 35 -- of the Air Force's 80 installations -- are under travel restrictions, where the Army only has 28 of 68 installations open and the Marine Corps has lifted restrictions at 14 of its 17 installations.

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The last time there were that few bases open for travel was July 13.

Then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper began restricting travel for military personnel and their families, and in May signed a memorandum laying out the conditions needed to allow for travel to and from bases.

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Since then, the highest number of open bases was 153 out of 231, or 66%, on Nov. 4. But rising case counts due to the holiday season and cooler weather have forced more installations to close.

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As of Wednesday the Pentagon had reported a total of 162,764 cases across the Department of Defense since the pandemic began -- up from 120,398 at the beginning of December.

Of those, 105,871 were among active-duty military, 29,582 among civilian DoD employees, 16,984 among dependents and 10,327 among contractors.

Among those testing positive, 180 have died, 2,318 have been hospitalized and 100,851 have recovered.

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The Army has been hit hardest by the virus, with 37,736 cases being reported.

U.S. military personnel began receiving vaccinations in Europe and Britain this week, as did military and civilian healthcare workers, first responders and the U.S. Forces Korea command team.

USFK tightened coronavirus restrictions earlier this month, but has continued to report new cases -- most recently a retired service member and his spouse who tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, three U.S. military bases in Japan reported 57 new coronavirus cases.

On Thursday the Pentagon said Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines had been distributed to more than 150 DoD vaccine administration sites in the United States and overseas.

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Since Dec. 13, the DoD has received more than 160,000 vaccine doses from the U.S. allocation, officials said.

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