Once in the Wuhan airport, Consular and Medical Officers got to work registering every evacuee with manifest numbers and recording their temperatures to ensure the safety of all passengers. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Beijing, China

East Asia and Pacific Region: When A Virus Hits

 

A child evacuated from Kuala Lumpur wrote a thank you letter to a consular officer who assisted him. The letter reads: “Hi Debi, Thank you for everything you and the ACS do to try to get me home. You are awesome! Take care, Ethan”

A child evacuated from Kuala Lumpur wrote a thank you letter to a consular officer who assisted him. The letter reads: “Hi Debi, Thank you for everything you and the ACS [American Citizen Services] do to try to get me home. You are awesome! Take care, Ethan”. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Staff at U.S. Embassy Tokyo demonstrated unfailing professionalism in assisting American passengers with repatriation from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. They continued to support Americans recovering from COVID-19 in Japanese hospitals, with welfare check-in calls and repatriation updates.

Staff at U.S. Embassy Tokyo assisted American passengers with repatriation from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.They continued to support Americans recovering from COVID-19 in Japanese hospitals, with welfare check-in calls and repatriation updates. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Japan

Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) couriers worked with Operational Medicine (OPMED) colleagues to deliver pouches to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, The Philippines. Photo courtesy DSS Diplomatic Couriers

Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) couriers worked with Operational Medicine (OPMED) colleagues to deliver pouches to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, The Philippines. Photo courtesy DSS Diplomatic Couriers

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U.S. Mission to Japan Chargé d’Affaires Joe Young with the Japanese military who facilitated services to U.S. citizens on cruise ships.

U.S. Mission to Japan Chargé d’Affaires Joe Young with the Japanese military who facilitated services to U.S. citizens on cruise ships. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Tokyo, Japan

After Consulate Wuhan’s American employees evacuated the city, eight locally employed staff members risked their health by volunteering to run departure operations for four subsequent evacuation flights.

After Consulate Wuhan’s American employees evacuated the city, eight locally employed staff members risked their health by volunteering to run departure operations for four subsequent evacuation flights. Photo courtesy of Jaime Fouss

Consul General Wuhan staff explain luggage handling procedures to U.S. citizen evacuees at the Wuhan International Airport, January 28, 2020

Consul General Wuhan staff explain luggage handling procedures to U.S. citizen evacuees at the Wuhan International Airport, January 28, 2020. Photo by Jamie Fouss

On April 7, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo reached out on Instagram to thank U.S. Embassy Mongolia for their repatriation efforts: “Great work, @usembmongolia and @USAmbMongolia, for helping to bring these #AmericansHome to the United States.” Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


On April 7, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo reached out on Instagram to thank U.S. Embassy Mongolia for their repatriation efforts: “Great work, @usembmongolia and @USAmbMongolia, for helping to bring these #AmericansHome to the United States.” Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

 

The U.S. Mission in China issues a Health Alert about a pneumonia outbreak of unknown cause in Wuhan.

AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Spotlight on Repatriation: China

Despite their training for a variety of pandemic scenarios, Consulate General Wuhan staff was shocked by how rapidly the disease spread throughout urban areas.  The Chinese government instituted a lockdown in Wuhan on January 22.  Within a few hours, all activity in the city ceased.

It literally happened overnight. It caught everybody by surprise, including the city officials.”

– Russell Westergard, Deputy Consular Chief, Wuhan

Consulate staff responded quickly, forming a Task Force focused on the repatriation of American citizens from Wuhan.  On five separate flights between January 28 and February 6, the Department of State evacuated 1,072 American citizens and their family members from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

With the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the Wuhan Task Force soon expanded, becoming the Coronavirus Global Response Coordination Unit (CGRCU).  On March 19, shortly after The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a “pandemic,” the CGRCU created a Repatriation Task Force to assist U.S. citizens abroad and coordinate their evacuation.

Since the first flight from Wuhan on January 28, the Department has brought home more than 80,000 U.S. citizens on 872 flights from 133 countries.

Our number one priority is helping American citizens overseas. You hear that all the time, but it actually is true.”

–  Russell Westergard, Deputy Consular Chief, Wuhan