The agency raised its travel advisory for all international travel from 3 to 4, the most serious category, reflecting the difficulty thousands of Americans are having returning to the United States as borders close and airlines cancel flights.
“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 State Department advisory said.
“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 statement added.
Particularly large numbers of American travelers have been stranded in Morocco, Peru, Honduras and Tunisia, where some have complained that U.S. embassies have not provided adequate help in getting them home.
The pandemic has forced governments around the world to try to arrange alternative routes for citizens to return home for vacations or work trips.
The U.S. advisory warns that Americans should “have a travel plan that does not rely on the U.S. government for assistance.”
On Thursday, President Trump told reporters at the White House that the United States was considering calling on the military to help stranded travelers, including hundreds of Americans in Peru, though he did not offer specifics.
“We have a group of young people in Peru, and we’re working on taking care of that with the military,” Trump said. “We’re trying to get them out. They got caught. . . . It’s a large group, it’s about 300.”
A group of nine Democratic senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday raising concerns that their constituents stranded in foreign countries were receiving conflicting signals from U.S. embassies about whether Washington would help them return home or if they were on their own.
“Americans overseas should have full confidence that the State Department will support them when abroad and facilitate their efforts to return to the United States if they are seeking to evacuate from areas affected by COVID-19,” wrote the senators, who included, Robert Menendez (N.J.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Christopher A. Coons (Del.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and others.
“We recognize these are extraordinary times for the nation and the world. Yet this crisis calls for creative measures,” the senators added.
Gayle Guynup of Santa Rosa, Calif., is one of hundreds of U.S. vacationers stuck in Morocco. The 68-year-old said that other governments seem to be doing more for their citizens.
“Egypt, Turkey, France and Great Britain have already taken actions on getting flights for their nationals out,” she told The Washington Post. “And our embassy [in Morocco] has not reached out to any of us.”
The U.S. advisory notes that U.S. embassy personnel around the world were authorized to return home last Saturday if they were vulnerable to the covid-19 virus, which could “limit the ability of U.S. Embassies and consulates to provide services to U.S. citizens.”
Miriam Berger contributed to this report.