Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making his advice to U.S. citizens still overseas during the coronavirus crisis simple: “Americans who wish to return home from abroad should so immediately and make arrangements to accomplish that,” he stressed during a Tuesday briefing.
While Pompeo said his repatriation task force remains committed to bringing all Americans home, he said the window to do so is closing.
“We do not know how long the commercial flights in your countries may continue to operate,” he said as airlines have already slashed international service. “We can’t guarantee the U.S. government’s ability to arrange charter flights indefinitely where commercial options no longer exist.”
In the meantime, he urged Americans to register with their nearest embassy or consulate or do so online via STEP, the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which provides citizens with safety alerts about local conditions and a communication link to their families back home.
In past weeks, the U.S. has brought home more than 600 Americans from Peru as well as 300 cruise passengers who had been quarantined in Japan on the Diamond Princess and another 103 from the Silver Shadow, which had been stuck in Brazil amidst the pandemic as countries close their ports to foreign ships.
The State Department said last week that more than 13,000 Americans stranded abroad have contacted the agency for help getting home.
“Never in the department’s 230-year history have we led a worldwide evacuation of such enormous geographic complexity and scale,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department headquarters in Washington. “We have no higher duty to the American people than to pull this off.”
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Contributing: Deirdre Shesgreen