COVID-19: How Pandemics Disrupt Military Operations

Mar 25, 2020 | 10:00 GMT

Fully protected members of the Spanish Army's Nuclear Bacteriological and Chemical Regiment (RNBQ) prepare to disinfect a train station in San Sebastian to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on March 24, 2020.

Soldiers prepare to disinfect a train station in San Sebastian, Spain, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on March 24, 2020. As of Tuesday, Spain had reported 39,673 confirmed cases of the virus.

(Nagore Iraola/Europa Press via Getty Images)


  • Measures to contain and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic could significantly impact global military readiness for at least the next several months.
  • Even though immediate disruptions to military operations will be temporary, the economic stress resulting from the pandemic could yield long-term setbacks in development programs.
  • The potential impact from COVID-19 provides a general template of how future pandemics could affect military capabilities and activites, albeit with different timelines and severity of impact depending on the disease.

Amid the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world are facing widespread disruptions to not only the health of their populations and economies, but their militaries. Even if the virus itself doesn't leave key personnel severely ill (or worse), quarantine measures can still severely thwart military operations. Meanwhile, military powers such as the United States may increasingly be forced to deploy additional forces to the frontlines of unfolding COVID-19 outbreaks at home. The resulting fallout could, in turn, result in setbacks in the fight against multiple non-state actors abroad, and potentially even the long-term development of military capabilities. ...

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