State Dept. urges US citizens to avoid all international travel

The State Department on Thursday issued a level four travel advisory applying to all countries, instructing Americans not to travel internationally and urging U.S. citizens abroad to return home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move represents the most drastic warning the department has issued to Americans traveling abroad as the world grapples with the coronavirus outbreak that has spread to over 150 countries and sickened close to 10,000 people in the United States.

“The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the advisory posted Thursday afternoon states.

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The advisory warns Americans that they could be stranded abroad if they do not heed the department’s instructions, pointing to disruptions to air travel and cruise operations as a result of the global pandemic.

“U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.  Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice,” the advisory states.

“If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe," it continues.

A level four travel advisory usually applies to individual countries, but Thursday’s announcement applies to all international travel.

The announcement comes as countries around the world are quickly closing their borders in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Short-notice border closures and unannounced flight cancellations have left little time for Americans to return home, leaving thousands stranded around the globe and who have pleaded with the U.S. government to evacuate them.

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In Peru, over 1,400 Americans are pleading with the U.S. government to take action in bringing them back to the U.S. after the Peruvian government instituted a two-week quarantine and canceled all flights.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE on Thursday said he is working to get Americans stranded in Peru out of the country by working with the military.

“They got caught, they were late with their flights, we gave them a period of time, they didn’t make it, but we’re looking to get them out probably through the military,” he said.

But the Department of Defense says they have yet to receive any instructions.

In response to an inquiry from The Hill, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said Thursday that the agency had received no requests for assistance in connection with Peru and evacuating Americans there.

The U.S. Embassy in Peru sent out an advisory to Americans in the country on Thursday that South American airlines are collecting information in an effort to restart flights.

In Honduras, more than 50 Americans part of a U.S. women’s football team were stranded in the country after the country’s president issued a seven-day lockdown of its borders and all flights were canceled.

Americans stuck abroad say they have received little to no word from their local U.S. embassies and the advice they are given — to contact their airline and check the embassy website for updates — is too little.

They report that other countries, such as the United Kingdom and France, have proactively engaged with their citizens stranded abroad.

The Israeli government on Wednesday dispatched a commercial plane to evacuate Israelis stranded in Peru. Chile repatriated 200 of its citizens from Peru and Mexico sent flights to evacuate its citizens.

Senate Democrats are pressuring the State Department to do more to help stranded Americans and immediately update Congress on their efforts.

“Providing support and assistance to Americans abroad and ensuring their safety and wellbeing are among the Department’s most fundamental responsibilities,” read the letter, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezHillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website Democratic senators press Google over privacy of coronavirus screening site Menendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees MORE (D-N.J.) and joined by eight other senators.

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Overnight Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' GOP blames environmental efforts, but Democrats see public health problems with stimulus MORE (D-Md.) sent a separate appeal to Pompeo, saying his office had received hundreds of urgent requests on Americans stuck in at least nine countries: Argentina, Cambodia, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Uzbekistan and El Salvador in addition to Morocco and Peru.

“In most cases, the Department of State has provided no assistance, or clear guidance, to facilitate their safe travel back to the United States,” Van Hollen wrote, adding that the latest advisory adds confusion to an already fraught situation.

“The Department’s anticipated advisory, absent meaningful support from the U.S. government, will only contribute to existing panic and confusion," he said.