A memo issued by the US Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) says applicants who have previously tested positive for coronavirus will no longer be allowed to serve in the armed forces, even if they have completely recovered from the disease.
As pointed out by Military Times, a memo issued by MEPCOM, which has started doing the rounds on social media, states that a previous COVID-19 diagnosis automatically "disqualifies" you from joining the military.
Coronavirus survivors barred from joining US Military
"During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying," reads the memo, which has been independently verified by Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell.
The memo, which has been sent out to all the 65 nationwide Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS), also points out that recruits with a coronavirus diagnosis can still apply for a waiver, as they could with any permanently disqualifying condition, but in the absence of any further guidance from officials so far on how to handle these cases, a review authority would have no justification to grant a waiver.
Banned due to risk of re-infection, permanent lung damage?
Although Maxwell did not specify the reason behind the ban, there is speculation that the new rules have been enforced due to the unknown risk of re-infections and permanent lung damage from the deadly virus.
One of the reasons could be the possibility of relapse in survivors as there have been instances where the virus has re-activated in people who have recovered from the disease. There is also the possibility that a previous COVID-19 infection might not provide full immunity to a survivor in the future, and could even leave someone at a higher risk of contracting it again.
Moreover, there is evidence to support the theory that a coronavirus infection has long-term effects on one's body and in some cases, can cause permanent damage to one's lungs and other organs, according to John Hopkins Medicine.
In order to enlist for the US armed forces, one is required to be free of certain diseases as part of its physical readiness requirement or "Standards of Medical Fitness." It seems like coronavirus is the latest addition to a long list of "permanently disqualifying" medical conditions that an individual can't have if he or she plans to join the military.