Pentagon chief postpones trip to Pakistan, India over coronavirus

08:07 PM | 10 Mar, 2020
Pentagon chief postpones trip to Pakistan, India over coronavirus

WASHINGTON – US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has put off a trip to South and Central Asia scheduled for next week in order to help manage the Department of Defense’s coronavirus response, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Esper had been due to visit India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan between March 16 and 20 but decided "to remain in the US to help manage the DoD response" to the outbreak of COVID-19, the new strain of potentially deadly coronavirus spreading around the world, said Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Secretary of Defense has decided to postpone his travel,” the spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that the trip would occur at “a later date.”

Meanwhile, incoming White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has put himself in quarantine because he might have come into contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus, his spokesman said Monday.

Meadows is not exhibiting symptoms, and a precautionary test came back negative, the spokesman said on Twitter.

On the other hand, President Donald Trump has not been tested for the coronavirus even though at least two lawmakers with whom he has recently come into contact are in self-isolation after attending a conference where a delegate was confirmed with the virus.

"The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms. President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him," White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

The US death toll rose to 26 on Tuesday as the coronavirus rolled unabated across the nation and around the world.

Globally, more than 3,800 people have died from the coronavirus and over 110,000 cases have been confirmed. About 64,000 people have recovered around the world.