European nations hosting U.S. bases from which troops are deploying to Ebola-affected areas of Africa are wary of letting them back in, despite the military’s planned quarantine measures, officials said.
Spain has refused to accept servicemembers arriving directly from Ebola-affected areas, while Italy has indicated it will accept only those who deploy from the country, according to several Defense Department officials. Questions remain about Djibouti, the small African country on the opposite side of the continent, from where a 15-member Seabee team deployed last month.
Between restrictions already in place and the possibility of new ones, military officials say the issue affects how they deploy troops based overseas.
“They’re eventually going to have to go back to their home station,” said one defense official, who has knowledge of the discussion but was unauthorized to speak about it. “The question is how do they get back to their home station.”
Bases in Italy, Spain and Germany have played the primary role in the early stages of Operation United Assistance, providing troops and aircraft being sent to the region and providing refueling stops. But as these nations’ governments respond to public fears over spread of the virus, some have tightened restrictions.
In Spain, where the deaths of a priest infected by Ebola lead to sharp criticism of health officials, the Defense Ministry reiterated its requirement for tight control over aircrews refueling at bases in Rota and Moron.
Spain’s defense minister told parliament on Wednesday that even with the mandatory quarantine of U.S. troops announced this week, the country’s bases “would not be an evacuation zone to rest troops.”
Troops who deployed from the U.S. Army post in Vicenza, Italy, are returning to the same installation — where they are kept in quarantine for 21 days, the maximum time Ebola symptoms can show in an infected person. Italian officials have said they will not accept returning troops who originally deployed from outside the country, several defense officials said.