March 11, 2020 / 7:24 PM / 17 days ago

EXCLUSIVE-U.S. State Department to suspend non-essential travel for staff -sources

(Adds details, background, paragraphs 3-5)

By Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON, March 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department has decided to suspend non-essential travel by staff because of the spread of the coronavirus and will only permit mission-critical trips, three sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said decisions about travel by employees stationed abroad would be made by U.S. embassies and consulates while Washington-based staff must obtain approval from their bureau.

Two other sources confirmed that U.S.-based staff needed approval from their bureaus, some of which focus on geographic areas and others on issues such as arms control. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision reflects the seriousness with which the U.S. government is taking the spread of the virus despite efforts by U.S. President Donald Trump to play down the threat.

The coronavirus has infected more than 119,100 people across the world and has killed 4,298, the vast majority in China, according to a Reuters tally. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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