More than 50,000 American citizens overseas as the COVID-19 pandemic spread and sparked travel restrictions and economic shutdowns around the globe have been repatriated with the help of the State Department.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the tens of thousands of repatriated U.S. citizens came from vacations and business, church and educational trips from more than 90 countries.
Pompeo said the effort was “without parallel in our lifetime” and required more than 400 flights and coordination with foreign governments, militaries, hotels and other businesses.
The secretary noted that many of the travelers were stranded in hard to reach places, far from capital cities and had faced road closures and travel restrictions.
“We still have several thousand people” outside the country, Pompeo said, noting that every day citizens visit the State Department website and seek help. “We’re going to be done when people can travel on their own again.”
Pompeo added that “a handful” of State Department staffers have contracted COVID-19 but “we feel we have a good handle on it.”
He noted the “vast majority” of repatriated citizens “weren’t our officers, they were ordinary citizens on the trip of a lifetime.”
All embassies, save the one in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, are open, Pompeo added.
The State Department has issued a travel advisory urging Americans to avoid all international travel.
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