COVID-19 Impact at U.S. Foreign Service Posts Around the World: Jamaica, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt

 

On March 11, we posted that a confirmed COVID-19 case in Jamaica was an employee of US Embassy Kingston (see US Embassy Jamaica Employee Reportedly Tested Positive of COVID-19, Routine Consular Services Suspendedsuspended routine services until further notice and announced that the “Embassy is in the process of sanitizing the premises to prevent further outbreak.” As of this writing, the Country-Specific Information for Jamaica still says the country does not have confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders. As of March 13, Jamaica has six (6) new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the country’s confirmed cases to eight (8).
On March 12, we posted a Burn Bag submission on the State Department’s handling of  COVID-19 symptoms and testing (seeBurn Bag: State Department/MED – Heads in the Sand.  As of this writing, we have not seen any public announcement or guidance from the State Department on COVID-19 for employees or family members. Let us know if we missed any statement from Pompeo or Bulatao.
By quick comparison, the Chief of Naval Operations tweeted that “Coronavirus is something we need to take seriously. While many may be anxious, your ’s leadership is actively engaged. Our #1 concern is the health and safety of and their families.” In addition to DOD guidance, the CNO also provided links to two unclassified cables providing guidance; both cables by the way, are readable without logins.
On consular services, the Visa Alerts page on trave.state.gov is still empty as of this writing.  We are aware, however that various posts have already downgraded their consular function.

ITALY (Only Emergency Consular Services Available)

We missed this earlier but on March 5, 2020, the Department of State allowed for the in country voluntary departure of Eligible Family Members of U.S. Government employees and some non-emergency employees, at the U.S. Consulate General in Milan due to COVID-19 and the limits on availability of commercial flights, decreased options for medical evacuations, and increased demands on the local medical system.
On March 11, 2020, we posted this: US Mission Italy: Only Emergency Consular Services Available in Rome, Milan, Naples, Florence Due to Reduced Staffing. Italy has the largest number of COVID-19 cases outside of China. The CDC advises travelers to avoid nonessential travel to Italy and State Department currently recommends U.S. citizens reconsider travel.

SWITZERLAND (No US Citizen Services in Zurich; Positive COVID-19 Cases at US Mission Geneva)

In Switzerland, 815 confirmed positive tested cases of COVID-19 within Swiss borders as of March 12, 2020. On March 13, the US Embassy to Switzerland and Liechtenstein announced that the Consular Agency in Zurich will not offer regular public hours from March 16 until April 3.  U.S. citizens requiring assistance can contact the American Citizens Services Unit in U.S. Embassy Bern.  See website: https://ch.usembassy.gov/
Also in Switzerland, we understand that one U.S. direct-hire employee and one locally employed staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.   Mission is where the delegations to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the U.S. Mission to the World Trade Organization and the U.S. Delegation to the Conference on Disarmament are located, Neither the tri-mission’s website nor its Twitter feed gave any indication of these cases.  
On March 13, US Embassy Bern issued a “health alert” noting that the “With immediate effect, Switzerland is temporarily reintroducing border controls at all of its borders.  U.S. citizens entering Switzerland will have to present a valid U.S. passport.”

SPAIN (Limited Consular Services; Only Emergency US Citizen Services)

The US Embassy in Madrid notes that U.S. military personnel stationed at Naval Station Rota in southern Spain are restricted from traveling to Madrid, La Rioja, and Basque Country until further notice and that all direct flights from Italy to Spain are cancelled from March 11-26, 2020.
US Embassy Madrid also announced limited consular services:
As of March 13, 2020, appointments for consular services at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona will be limited, and the five U.S. consular agencies throughout Spain (Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Malaga, Sevilla, Valencia) will provide only emergency services to U.S. citizens.
COVID-19 cases have been detected in all of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions and the number of identified infections is currently increasing. Regional governments are closing schools, public facilities, bars, restaurants and shops,  canceling large-scale and sport events, and taking other measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

DENMARK (Routine Consular Services Suspended)

On March 12, the US Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark announced the suspension of routine visa appointments “due to reduced staffing” beginning March 13. Post will also curtail some American citizen services like notarials and loss of nationality services beginning March 13.
Due to reduced staffing beginning March 13, notary and loss of nationality appointments are suspended.  U.S. Embassy Copenhagen will continue to offer routine passport and citizenship appointments.  To schedule a passport or citizenship appointment, please follow the instructions provided here.
US Embassy Copenhagen’s COVID-19 page says that Denmark has confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders.

ISRAEL (Affected Staff Quarantined)

In Israel, on March 12, 2020, the US Embassy in Jerusalem issued the following statement on a COVID19-Positive Individual That Visited the US Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv on March 5, 2020, and announced the quarantine of affected staff:
As has been reported, the Ministry of Health (MOH) informed the U.S. Embassy that a COVID19-positive individual visited the Embassy Branch Office Non-Immigrant Visa Section waiting room in Tel Aviv in the 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. timeframe on March 5.  Following close consultation with the MOH, the Embassy has directed its affected staff to quarantine.  We understand the Ministry recommends that members of the public who were in the waiting room during that timeframe also move to quarantine themselves.  At this time, the Embassy Branch Office Visa Section is operating consistent with recommendations from the Ministry of Health. We will provide updates as needed.
On March 13, the State Department issued a Level 3: Reconsider travel to Israel and the West Bank due to travel restrictions and quarantine procedures instituted by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Read More

Lebanon (Non-Emergency Visa Operations Suspended; American Citizen Services Available)

On March 13, 2020, the US Embassy in Beirut announced that the Consular Section has suspended non-emergency visa operations “in the interest of public health safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.”  American Citizen Services will remain available for U.S. citizen emergency appointments.  The U.S. Embassy will suspend routine consular operations effective Monday, March 16.  This suspension will remain in effect until further notice.
Embassy Beirut’s “health alert” of March 12 notes 61 confirmed cases in country and restrictions in inbound flights and gatherings in Lebanon:
On March 11, 2020, the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health reported that there are 61 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lebanon.
The government of Lebanon announced on March 11, 2020 the temporary suspension of flights departing to Italy, Iran, China and South Korea.  Additionally, on March 12, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation requested airlines that serve Beirut to immediately stop all flights to and from those countries, and not to transport passengers from or transiting France, Egypt, Germany, Iraq, Syria, Spain, and the United Kingdom, with exemptions for Lebanese and foreign residents of Lebanon through March 16. Measures are being taken to restrict gatherings in places such as dining and entertainment venues, and that a limit be placed on the number of public sector employees reporting to their workplaces.  For more information, visit the website of the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health.

EGYPT (NIV Appointments Postponed From March 15-April 9)

In Cairo, the US Embassy issued an “Urgent Message to Visa Applicants” postponing nonimmigrant appointments scheduled during the period March 15th to April 9th.” It asked that applicants “do not come to the Embassy.” It notes that “immigrant visa processing is not affected at this time.”
Based on U.S. and Government of Egypt recommendations to avoid large gatherings and observe social distancing, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt is postponing nonimmigrant visa appointments scheduled during the period March 15th to April 9th. Please do not come to the Embassy. Go to ustraveldocs.com and use your profile to reschedule. There is no fee to reschedule appointments and visa application fees are valid for one year. Already scheduled emergency appointments are not postponed.
The embassy will continue to process visas for applicants in serious medical and humanitarian situations. Applicants with serious medical and humanitarian situations may request an emergency appointment through www.ustraveldocs.com. Requests will be reviewed by a consular officer.
Interview waiver applications are not affected. The Embassy has expanded the interview waiver program to include applicants over 80 years old and most applicants under 14 years old. Note that processing times for interview waiver cases may range from 3-6 weeks. Please visit www.ustraveldocs.com for more information.
According to Embassy Cairo’s COVID-19 page, there were approximately 80 confirmed cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) in Egypt as of March 12.  Of these cases, 45 were among the passengers and crew of a Nile cruise ship.

Tajikistan

In November 2019, the State Department issued a Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution for Tajikistan due to terrorism. On its COVID-19 page, the US Embassy in Dushanbe notes that “Tajikistan has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders.” However, its latest guidance on COVID-19 on February 25 also notes:
“The Government of Tajikistan is frequently adjusting its entry and exit requirements and travelers may be subject to a mandatory quarantine or refused entry.” Also that the U.S. Embassy “recommends that its citizens decline any medical procedures beyond routine, non-invasive medical examination or temperature checks.”
Let’s keep an eye on this, shall we?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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