With borders closing worldwide due to the coronavirus crisis, the State Department sent charter flights to Morocco to pick up stranded Americans, and President Trump said the military is working to bring home hundreds who are stuck in Peru.
The repatriation efforts took on new urgency after the U.S. issued a Level 4 travel advisory on March 19, urging its citizens to avoid traveling abroad.
In a tweet, the U.S. Embassy in Morocco said the flights departed Marrakech today, taking the Americans to London Heathrow, where they would connect on British Airways flights back to the U.S. The State Department is charging $1,485 for each flight back.
Trump said in a White House press briefing March 19 that he is aware of a group of about 300 Americans stranded in Peru.
"We have a group of young people in Peru, and we're working on taking care of that with the military," Trump said in a White House press briefing March 19. "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 with military."
Peru's president declared a 15-day state of emergency on March 15, which included closing the country's borders. Travelers in Peru from around the world say that they did not have sufficient notice to rebook their flights home. Tweeting under the hashtag #stuckinperu, they are pleading with their governments to get them out of the country.
Californian Sarah Au Yeung is one of them. She tweeted today that so far, "Mexico, Israel, and Chile have gotten their people from both Cusco and Lima to take them home. Waiting for the US to take action and help get the 1300+ Americans that are #stuckinperu."
In a press conference today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that a repatriation task force had been set up within the department and that it is not currently known how many Americans are stranded abroad.
"We don't know the full scale of it yet," he said. "But we think we have the largest number identified."
Pompeo said individuals who can get back on their own should, but that the task force would eventually make sure everyone was repatriated.
"We are trying to get Americans back from these places where air travel has been disrupted," he said. "We'll get that done over time."
Pompeo said the task would use "all the tools we can," including combining commercial and private flights and possibly military.
"It's a whole government effort to make sure we get them back," he said.
He encouraged any stranded Americans to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so they can be accounted for.