U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has so far helped return home over 50,000 Americans who were “trapped” in more than 90 countries amid the travel restrictions linked to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed on Wednesday.
Specifically, as of Wednesday afternoon, the Trump administration had “coordinated the repatriation of 50,339 Americans from 94 countries since January 29,” as part of an unprecedented effort to bring Americans back home, the State Department revealed.
State officials from the Repatriation Task Force reportedly continue to help thousands of additional Americans return to their families.
The Repatriation Task Force at State Department is using all means at its disposal to bring back Americans from various terrains overseas, including “deep inside the Amazon forest” in Peru, Pompeo proclaimed on Wednesday.
State officials are “working with the Peruvian military and police forces to send riverboats up the — up the river to get citizens that were stranded deep inside the Amazon forest,” the secretary said during the White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing.
In mid-March, Peru shut down its land, air, and maritime borders to stem the spread of the virus, leaving thousands of U.S. citizens trapped.
State officials have said that the Trump administration is using military aircraft, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deportation planes, and chartered flights to get some Americans home while asking others to avail themselves of commercial means to return whenever possible.
On Wednesday, Pompeo told reporters:
As you know, when many countries shut down their rail lines, their buses, their infrastructure systems, the capacity to get out of those countries — [Americans] were trapped, they’re stranded — the State Department swung into action.
Since January 29th, we have now repatriated over 50,000 United States citizens back to their homes from more than 90 countries, [using] more than 490 flights back to the United States from all across the world.
This worldwide scale of our repatriation efforts is without parallel in our lifetime. We are coordinating with foreign governments, militaries, airport authorities, medical units, transportation companies, hotels; you name it. We’re working with them to make sure the American people get back to be with their families.
Pompeo highlighted some of the “remarkable stories” from the Repatriation Task Force efforts, noting:
A three-year-old boy told one of our consular officers just before he boarded the flight [from Honduras], “Thank you for helping me get back home to my dad.” Pretty neat.
We’ve received similar messages from lots of people. They’re proud to know that their country will not leave them stranded, and we’re going to get them back home.
One woman wrote, quote, “I was in tears when I received the e-mail approving our flight back to the United States. God bless the United States of America.”
On March 23, a State official noted that the department’s message to people overseas is for them to try to leave unless they are “ready to ride out an undetermined period of time” at their current location.
Dozens of State officials have contracted the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) overseas. However, Pompeo said he is not aware of any cases involving American officials infected by the virus while trying to rescue U.S. citizens abroad.
Domestically, there were 46 coronavirus cases and one death involving State officials as of Wednesday, State reported.
There are 75,000 State officials in over 220 locations around the globe.
Overseas, there were 196 cases and three deaths as of Wednesday. “All” deaths so far are “within [the] locally employed staff,” Dr. William Walters, the deputy chief medical officer for operations at State’s Bureau of Medical Services, told reporters on Monday.