- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said his department is working with the Pentagon to bring Americans abroad back to the U.S. amid the coronavirus outbreak.

He explained the department is working with commercial and private airlines to fly U.S. citizens to an undisclosed destination in the U.S., while other Americans could find themselves flying back on a Defense Department flight “where there is space available.”

Mr. Pompeo did not specify which airlines the department has been in communication with.

“It’s a whole government effort to make sure we get them back. … [The military is] going to help us every place they can,” he said during a press conference at the White House. “We’re going to use all the tools we can.”

The State Department on Thursday issued its highest level travel advisory warning Americans against international travel to any country as the world races to contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The “Level 4: Do Not Travel” warning, which has been used by the department sparingly in recent years to advise against traveling to war zones, or nations experiencing disease or financial crises, cautions U.S. citizens to avoid “all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.”

The Trump administration bumped up its warnings for U.S. citizens to “arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.”

But some lawmakers have raised “serious concerns” about Americans abroad who are struggling to return back to the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to Mr. Pompeo earlier this week, a group of Democratic senators requested the department to “step up” efforts to assist the U.S. nationals in returning home amid the coronavirus outbreak after receiving reports that some Americans have been unable to book flights or get in contact with U.S. embassies.

The lawmakers cited fears from Americans in Honduras, Morocco, Peru and Tunisia who have recently reported difficulties in obtaining support from U.S. embassies and consulates.

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