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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday urged Americans living abroad to return home as soon as possible, or they may lose the ability to do so.
“Americans who wish to return home from abroad should do so immediately and make arrangements to accomplish that,” Pompeo said at a news briefing.
“We do not know how long the commercial flights in your countries may continue to operate,” Pompeo continued, as many airlines have already slashed most of their international service.
“We can’t guarantee the U.S. government’s ability to arrange charter flights indefinitely where commercial options no longer exist,” he added.
Pompeo urged Americans abroad to register with their local embassy or do so online via STEP, the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, and “work your way back here.”
Pompeo said he had never been more proud than he was of his team right now, adding that a 24/7 repatriation task force would continue to bring home thousands more Americans in the coming days and weeks.
“Never in the department’s 230-year history have we led a worldwide evacuation of such enormous geographic complexity and such geographic scale,” Pompeo said. “We have no higher duty to the American people than to pull this off.”
President Trump praised the State Department’s efforts in his own news briefing Tuesday, saying that the department had already repatriated 25,000 Americans from more than 50 countries.
“Almost everybody’s out now, back home with their parents” or family members, Trump said.
On Monday, a State Department senior official told reporters more than 13,000 Americans stranded abroad had contacted the agency amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Last week, Fox News reported that up to 5,000 Americans were stranded in Peru after the international airport in the country’s capital city closed due to the virus.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., accused the State Department of a “lack or [sic] urgency” surrounding Americans stranded in Peru.