The State Department on Thursday issued a Level 4 travel advisory for international travel, its highest-level advisory, warning Americans not to travel abroad and telling any currently overseas to return to the United States, Business Insider reports.
The move comes as countries try to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 227,000 people and killed more than 9,300 people across the planet.
Three individuals with knowledge of the announcement, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved, told Politico that Americans abroad will either have to return to the U.S. or get ready to shelter where they are. State had already issued a Level 3 travel advisory that recommends Americans reconsider traveling overseas.
Multiple current and former U.S. diplomats told Politico that they can’t recall this level of travel advisory ever being issued before. President Donald Trump has already banned travel from several countries, including all of Europe, in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Pompeo said on Wednesday that his department is "doing everything we can to protect American citizens all across the world."
"We know of students that are in Peru, some other travelers that are there as well. There are other countries, too, where those countries have shut down their airports," he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. "We are working to try and solve problems for each of those American citizens. We just learned about them over the last couple days; it'll take us some amount of time. But know that President Trump has made clear that we're going to do everything we can to get every American home safely."
According to BI, before the blanket warning on Thursday, 16 countries had Level 4 advisories, including Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Iran, and China.
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