Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the military

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Armed forces play a crucial role when responding to crises and emergencies. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the armed forces were readily deployed in many countries to assist the civilian medical personnel and overwhelmed hospitals by creating additional hospitals and providing other additional resources.[1] Apart from the management of the health crises, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the military operations. The security and defence related aspects including the missions, operations and training were adversely affected with the Covid-19.[2] The broad spread of Covid can limit the defence forces' ability to carry out a mission. Many military training and exercises have been postponed or cancelled.[3]

Impact of Covid-19

Impact on Recruit Training

Recruit training that involves several hundred recruits increased the safety risk during the Covid pandemic. Limiting the spread of Covid was a top priority to ensure that the training can be conducted without interruption.[4] The immediate measure to limit the spread of the pandemic was to limit the movement of trainees and trainers through lockdown, quarantine and so on.

The lockdowns and restrictions as a result of Covid-19 prevented the entry of trainers into institutes, reduced the number of new trainees and the final phase of induction training was left incomplete. [5] The defences forces recruitment process including collective training activities and induction processing came to a halt as a result of Covid -19. [6] The low recruitment rates and increased turnover rates in the military have led to the military strength falling below the minimum.[7] The strength of the defence forces depends on competent staff. Military authorities have warned about the need for urgent measures to boost retention and increase recruitment to address the current shortage of defence force personnel as a result of Covid.[8]

Physical and Mental Health

The Covid-19 pandemic adversely affected the physical and mental health of military veterans. Studies indicate that military veterans without insomnia symptoms pre-pandemic developed either subthreshold or clinical insomnia symptoms during the pandemic period.[9]


Military forces all over the world are adopting several measures to minimise the threats of the Covid pandemic on the military readiness to fulfil missions.[10] The nature of responses of the defence forces during the Covid pandemic has significant impact on international safety missions.[11]


On 27 February, South Korea and the United States (US) cancelled joint military exercises scheduled for March 2020.[12] The Israeli defence force implemented social distancing through measures such as splitting personnel's into separate shifts, reducing the number of personnel in a single room and minimising exposure between military personnel and civilians.[4] Putting units into quarantine, using masks and other personal protective equipment and use of disinfectants were other methods adopted to contain the Covid pandemic in the Israeli defence force.[4]


On 11 March, the Norwegian Armed Forces cancelled the Cold Response 20 exercise planned to involve NATO and allied personnel.[3]

During the first wave of the pandemic in Italy, the Italian armed forces worked with the national government to provide civilian healthcare and logistical support throughout the country, in addition to serve as lockdown enforcement alongside the police.[13][14]

On 25 March, president of France Emmanuel Macron launched "Operation Resilience" to enable the French armed forces to provide civilian support during the pandemic in France and overseas French territories.[15]

North America

United States

The military exercises scheduled in the first half of 2020 were cancelled.[16] The cancelled exercises include a joint fire exercise on the dynamic front, saber strike, joint warfighting assessment and swift response. On 16 March, the National Defense Industrial Association in the United States cancelled the 2020 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference scheduled for May 2020.[17] On 25 March, the Department of Defense prohibited the deployment of servicemembers for 60 days to mitigate spread of the virus.[18] On 27 March, the United States cancelled large-scale exercises involving thousands of troops in the Philippines that had been scheduled for May 2020.[19] In addition, the movement of personnel and equipment from the US to Europe also ceased due to concerns over Covid-19. All the cancelled exercises were crucial to enhance NATO's military capabilities and improve their ability to defend against Russian aggression.[20] On 6 April, the United States Forces Japan declared a Public Health Emergency on the Kanto Plain installations.[21][22] In May 2020, the Department of Defense issued a memo banning survivors of COVID-19 from joining the military.[23] In June 2020, the United States Navy came up with guidance to combat COVID-19 and deploy safely using the smallest effort possible.[24]

Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq

On 20 March 2020, CJTF-OIR confirmed that certain troops would be withdrawing from Iraq due to the pandemic.[25]


Military bases


INS Angre

On 2020.04.18, it was announced that 21 sailors staying at INS Angre, a naval base in Mumbai, had tested positive.[26] Most of the cases were asymptomatic, and all of the cases had been traced to a sailor who tested positive on 2020.04.07.[26] The Navy emphasized that no sailors serving on a ship or submarine had been infected.[26]

United Kingdom

Akrotiri and Dhekelia

On 15 March, the first two cases in Akrotiri and Dhekelia were confirmed.[27]

United States

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

On 24 March, the first case in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base was confirmed.[28]

United States Forces Korea

On 26 February, the first case was confirmed to have spread to the Camp Humphreys.[29]

As of 22 April, a total of 22 SARS-CoV-2 cases were laboratory confirmed at United States Forces Korea bases: 10 at Camp Humpreys, 8 at Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk Province bases (Camp Carroll, Camp Henry and Camp Walker), 3 at the Osan Air Base, and 1 at the Camp Casey.[30]

Naval ships

The COVID-19 pandemic spread to a number of naval ships, with the nature of such ships, including working with others in small enclosed areas and the lack of private quarters for the vast majority of crew, contributing to the rapid spread of the disease, even more so than on cruise ships.[31][32]


  1. ^ Kalkman, J., 2021. Military crisis responses to COVID‐19. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 29(1), pp.99-103.
  2. ^ European Parliament, 2021. How the COVID-19 crisis has affected security and defence-related aspects of the EU. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 6 July 2022].
  3. ^ a b Hurt, Martin (2020-03-17). "The impact of COVID-19 on military exercises in Europe".
  4. ^ a b c Tsur, A., Furer, A., Avramovich, E., Karp, E., Twig, G., Bader, T., Almakias, M. and Fink, N., 2021. SARS-CoV-2 Epidemic in the Israeli Defense Force—Lessons Learned from Our rt-PCR Screening Policy. Military Medicine.
  5. ^ Gurung, S., 2020. Training hit at defence institutes, passing out and new inductions likely to be delayed. [online] The Economic Times. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 July 2022].
  6. ^ Dáil Éireann Debate, 2021. Defence Forces. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 25 July 2022].
  7. ^ O’Riordan, S., 2020. Defence Forces recruitment crisis won't be resolved without urgent measures. [online] Irish Examiner. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 July 2022].
  8. ^ O’Riordan, S., 2020. Defence Forces recruitment crisis won't be resolved without urgent measures. [online] Irish Examiner. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 July 2022].
  9. ^ McCarthy, E., DeViva, J., Na, P. and Pietrzak, R., 2021. New‐onset and exacerbated insomnia symptoms during the COVID‐19 pandemic in US military veterans: A nationally representative, prospective cohort study. Journal of Sleep Research, 31(1).
  10. ^ Segal, D., Rotschield, J., Ankory, R., Kutikov, S., Moaddi, B., Verhovsky, G., Benov, A., Twig, G., Glassberg, E., Fink, N., Bader, T. and Karp, E., 2020. Measures to Limit COVID-19 Outbreak Effects Among Military Personnel: Preliminary Data. Military Medicine, 185(9-10), pp.e1624-e1631.
  11. ^ Norheim, O., Abi-Rached, J., Bright, L., Bærøe, K., Ferraz, O., Gloppen, S. and Voorhoeve, A., 2020. Difficult Trade-Offs in Response to COVID-19: The Case for Open and Inclusive Decision-Making. SSRN Electronic Journal.
  12. ^ Shinkman, Paul D. (2020-02-27). "U.S., South Korea Cancel Military Exercises Amid Coronavirus Spike". U.S. News & World Report.
  13. ^ "Europe's armed forces and the fight against COVID-19". IISS. Retrieved 2020-12-23.
  14. ^ "Italy calls in military to enforce coronavirus lockdown as 627 people die in 24 hours". CNN. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  15. ^ "Macron launches army Operation Resilience to support fight against coronavirus". France 24. 2020-03-25. Retrieved 2020-12-23.
  16. ^ Hurt, M., 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on military exercises in Europe - ICDS. [online] ICDS. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 July 2022].
  17. ^ "Cancellation updates: SOFIC cancelled". Military Times. 2020-03-16.
  18. ^ "COVID-19 and the U.S. Military". War on the Rocks. 2020-11-10. Retrieved 2020-12-23.
  19. ^ "US cancels military drills with Philippines over coronavirus". The Straits Times. 2020-03-27.
  20. ^ Hurt, M., 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on military exercises in Europe - ICDS. [online] ICDS. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 July 2022].
  21. ^ @USForcesJapan (2020-04-06). "USFJ commander declares Public Health Emergency for Kanto Plains installations" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  22. ^ Gallagher, Chris (2020-04-06). "U.S. Forces Japan declares health emergency for bases in Kanto region". Reuters.
  23. ^ Myers, Meghann (2020-07-06). "Coronavirus survivors banned from joining the military". Military Times. Retrieved 2020-12-23.
  24. ^ Information, From the Office of the Navy Chief of. "Navy issues COVID-19 standardized operational guidance". DC Military. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  25. ^ Rebecca Kheel (March 20, 2020). "US-led coalition in Iraq drawing down over coronavirus concerns". The Hill. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  26. ^ a b c "Coronavirus India: 26 Navy Sailors in Mumbai Test COVID-19 +ve, No Infections on Warships, Submarines".
  27. ^ "Coronavirus: British Bases announce two confirmed cases". in-cyprus. Archived from the original on 18 March 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  28. ^ "Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Announces Positive COVID-19 Case". Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Public Affairs. Retrieved 2020-04-03.
  29. ^ Lee, Geun-pyung (2020-02-26). "부대 내 접촉 감염자에 비상걸린 軍…주한미군 1명 추가 확진". JoongAng Ilbo.
  30. ^ Ha, Hyun-jong (2020-04-12). "평택 미군기지서 코로나19 확진…주한미군 22번째". Seoul Broadcasting System.
  31. ^ Faturechi, Robert; Rose, Megan & Miller, T. Christan (16 March 2020). "After Discovering a Sailor With Coronavirus, the U.S. Navy Crowded Dozens Into One Room". Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  32. ^ Gafni, Matthias & Garofoli, Joe (31 March 2020). "Exclusive: Captain of aircraft carrier with growing coronavirus outbreak pleads for help from Navy". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 8 April 2020.