About 13,500 Americans are stranded abroad and have reached out to the State Department for help in returning to the United States since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a senior state official said Monday.
A repatriation task force is “working around the clock” to help Americans get home, said the official, who was only authorized to speak on condition of anonymity.
Since the effort began, the State Department has repatriated 5,000 Americans from 17 countries and will bring home “thousands more in the coming days and weeks,” the official said.
Aya Mansour, a 22-year-old student from the University of Georgia, said Monday that she and other schoolmates remain stuck in Cusco, Peru.
“We’ve been staying here and in the meantime we have been trying to contact all our reps and our congressmen,” she told NBC News. “We haven’t had any luck so far.”
She added: “it’s just a mess right now so we’ve been doing everything we can do to get this moving.”
Crystal Alexander, who is from Shelley, Idaho, struggled to get out of Roatan, Honduras. She’d been booked to fly home on Saturday before that flight was cancelled.
“For the people of Honduras, we don’t need to be there taking up their resources,” Alexander said. “The government should just be coming and getting their own people out of here, or compelling the airlines.”
Olivia Kamra, a 47-year-old resident of Hawaii, became stuck over the weekend in Arequipa, Peru, and she’s not alone in wanting to come home.
“It was very scary in Peru because hundreds of people wanted to go back to U.S. or different countries, so airports were full inside, and outside there were a lot of police trying to coordinate people,” said Kamra, who is with her sons, 10 and 11.
Kamra, who was still stranded on Monday and staying with her father who lives in Peru, said there are severe restrictions in place throughout the country,
“Everything is closed down. Only hospitals are open. Some pharmacies and places to buy groceries, but you have to have a special permission to go out,” she said.
“There is a curfew. So, if anyone is out for any reason, even to take out the garbage, they will be in jail.”
Caitlin Fichtel and David K. Li contributed.