Secretary of “Deep State Department” Michael R. Pompeo Performs During COVID-19 WH Briefing. Please Clap.

 

 

COVID-19 Pandemic Howler: “No one in DC, to include S, gives AF about AF”

Update 1:14 PDT: US Embassy Pretoria’s meltdown (see below)

We’ve explained previously about evacuations in the State Department’s Foreign Service posts (see New Travel Advisories and Voluntary/Mandatory Departures: Micronesia (L3), Tajikistan (L3), Mongolia (L4)).
Authorized departure is an evacuation procedure, short of ordered departure, by which post employees and/or eligible family members are permitted to leave post in advance of normal rotation when U.S. national interests or imminent threat to life requires it. Departure is requested by the chief of mission (COM) and approved by the Under Secretary for Management (M). The incumbent to this office is Brian Bulatao.
Ordered departure is an evacuation procedure by which the number of U.S. government employees, eligible family members, or both, at a Foreign Service post is reduced. Ordered departure is mandatory and may be initiated by the chief of mission or the Secretary of State. Posts with very few exceptions, report to their regional or geographic bureaus headed respectively by an Assistant Secretary, a Senate confirmed position.
As we’ve watched this pandemic unfold at home, we’ve also watched the State Department’s troubling response to it, particularly at overseas posts and in its public communication.
Update: On March 20, US Ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks reportedly held a “town hall” meeting for staff members “after mounting complaints from employees that she had refused to self-quarantine or take other protective measures, according to accounts of the meeting provided to The Washington Post by people familiar with it.” She apparently “attended a dinner at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club with Brazilian officials who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus. But she told her State Department employees she did not consider herself at risk because the dinner was outside and she believed the virus could not withstand the Florida heat.” A second hand source with extensive sources told us “Embassy Pretoria is in meltdown.”
Recently, we heard about Post 1 in Africa that just went into ordered departure. We understand that employees were hoping to get on to what is being called “the last Air France flight.” We were told that what happens if/after they arrive in Paris is “unknown.”  
Then we received a howler from Post 2 in Africa:  They’ve shut the airport here. And closed the borders in [XXX]. No one gives AF about AF. Authorized Departure, yes. But flights were full or cancelled so that didn’t leave much room for options. No one in DC, to include S, gives AF about AF.”
We understand that this particular post was given the option to evacuate but “there’s no consensus” from the AF bureau if they’re going to authorize “ordered departure.” Post has sent a request but no response from D.C. — “they’re dragging their feet.”
Source from Post 2 says that they were given a 24-hour window for voluntary departure but then the border to [the neighboring country] had closed as well, and that also cuts off supplies for their host country.
“And as you know, people get crazy if they can’t get food or supplies.”
Source from Post 2 further writes “I don’t know how many more EACs and thresholds they want to cross before they say you’re on OD [ordered departure]. And – we are on staggered shifts so teleworking and not really getting anything done.”
Post 2 also says that “A lot of us are worried because of the optics on a lot of the confirmed cases on the continent – they’re all foreigners.” That’s a real worry given what’s happening in Ethiopia and Cameroon. 
On March 18, the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia issued a Security Alert on Reports of Anti-Foreigner Sentiment:
The Embassy continues to receive reports regarding a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment revolving around the announcement of COVID-19 in Ethiopia. Typical derogatory comments directed at foreigners, the terms “China” and “Ferengi” (foreigner), have been reportedly coupled with the label “Corona,” indicating a disparaging view on the link between the outbreak of COVID-19 and foreigners in Ethiopia. Incidents of harassment and assault directly related to COVID-19 have been reported by other foreigners living within Addis Ababa and other cities throughout the country. Reports indicate that foreigners have been attacked with stones, denied transportation services (taxis, Ride, etc.), being spat on, chased on foot, and been accused of being infected with COVID-19.”
On March 19, the US Embassy in Cameroon issued a similar Security Alert:
The Embassy has received reports regarding a rise of anti-foreigner sentiment revolving around the announcement of the spread of COVID-19.  Incidents of harassment and assault directly related to COVID-19 have been reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners in both Yaounde and Douala.  Reports include verbal and online harassment, stone throwing, and banging on vehicles occupied by expatriates.
During the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the attack on one of the Ebola Treatment Centers in February 2019 was preceded by a change in public behavior toward the Medicins sans Frontiers (MSF) team. “On February 17, residents began shouting “Ebola, Ebola, Ebola” at the MSF team. Simultaneously, there was a marked drop in suspected cases referred to the ETC. The ETC had been receiving 35 to 40 suspected Ebola cases a week. However, on the day before the attack, only 1 suspected Ebola case was referred, and on the day of the attack, only 2. Rumors about foreigners experimenting on locals, taking organs, and filling the bodies with concrete and Ebola being a fabrication were also circulating.”
Our Post 2 source says that We knew what we signed up for. This is an unprecedented time. But borders and airports closing is a bit of a game changer in these high threat posts. It would be wonderful to know there’s some sort of exit strategy. And there isn’t one when they shut down the borders and airports.”
For now other worries include the civil unrest that may occur if food and supplies are stopped; not having plans in place for medical evacuation if/when it becomes necessary; the fact that these places are austere in medical facilities to take care of their own people let alone handling a car accident or malaria; that the guards are wonderful and in place, but you know, for how long?
There are worst case scenarios that we’re not going to spell out here but we’re sure the AF bureau and all posts in Africa are aware of them. It can’t be that no one has thought about what to do with posts in Africa during a pandemic.
Is there a pandemic plan for FS posts somewhere in Foggy Bottom’s vaults? What are their plans for post operations, repatriation of employees/family members, protection of local employees, or continuity of operations during/after a pandemic. Have they simply brushed off the shelf the Bush Administration’s old ‘stay remain in country/shelter in place’ policy during a pandemic without telling anyone?

US Embassy Lebanon Now on Ordered Departure

On March 19, the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon announced that it is now on “ordered departure” status and that the embassy will now be reduced to emergency staffing levels:

On March 18, 2020, the Department of State authorized the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to go on “ordered departure” status, which means the Embassy will be reducing personnel to emergency staffing levels.  The decision was based on a variety of factors, including the cessation of commercial transportation options out of the country, the increasing incidence of COVID-19, and associated burdens on a severely strained local healthcare system.

All routine consular operations remain suspended.  During this time, the Consular Section will be able to provide only limited emergency services to U.S. citizens on a case-by-case basis.  U.S. citizens with verifiable emergencies may contact BeirutACS@state.gov.  Additional information regarding availability of consular services and the status of the Embassy can be found on our website.

US Embassy Beirut remains a Level 3 Reconsider Travel country; the advisory was issued on October 21, 2019 due to crime, terrorism, armed conflict and civil unrest.
Related post:

Also in Lebanon:

 

US Embassy Lima: Avianca Airlines May Have Outbound Flights For #StuckinPeru Americans

 

According to the US Embassy in Lima, Peru, on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the Peruvian Ministry of Health (MINSA) has 145 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Peru, with 13 hospitalized.
For Americans stranded in Peru, the embassy provided a link to Avianca Airlines’ sign up page for travelers interested in departing Lima. It looks like there are flights for March 19 and 23, 2020 from Cusco to Lima, and Lima to Miami, as well as to other non-US destinations. Avianca’s sign-up page says that the airline is trying to program new flights based on the request of embassies with nationals in the country. Travelers are asked to complete a short form to  confirm their interest in purchasing a flight.  “In case there are enough passengers confirming interest in flying, we will notify you so that you can purchase it through the different Avianca channels. In case the flight does not operate, we will also contact you” (rough translation).
As of March 19, one social media account tracking the number of those stranded in country estimates there are over 1,660 U.S. citizens in the country from 48 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Below via US Embassy Lima:

Avianca Airlines notified the U.S. Embassy it has created an online signup page here for travelers to express interest in flights departing from Lima and Cusco to destinations including the United States.  If you are interested in this offer, please respond immediately through the link.  You are encouraged to keep contacting your airline for reservation and flight updates.  To contact major airlines with flights from Peru to the United States, below are their customer service telephone numbers:

  • The Peruvian government declared a national state of emergency on March 15, 2020, at 8:00 PM Peru local time.  Under the state of emergency, Peru enacted 15 days of mandatory quarantine, starting at 00:00 on March 16, 2020.  At 23:59 PM on March 16, 2020, the Peruvian Government closed all international borders (land, air, and maritime) and suspended all interprovincial travel within Peru (land, air, and river).  American Citizens who remain in Peru should arrange lodging for the duration of the quarantine period and plan to limit their movements.  Limited quarantine exemptions include movement to obtain food and medical care.  Travelers currently in country should consult iPeru for the latest guidance for tourists.  The Embassy will provide a daily update on this page as this situation develops.
  • As of March 17, Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima is closed to the public.  Please contact your airline carrier for updates on flight information.
  • The Peruvian government issued a decree on March 14 suspending the docking of all cruise ships in Peruvian ports for 30 days.
  • American Airlines announced via its website on March 14 that it will suspend service from Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami to Lima, Peru effective end of day March 16, after flying all legs scheduled through the end of that day.  This suspension will last through May 6.
  • On March 13 the Peruvian government issued a decree to suspend all flights to and from Europe and Asia, beginning on March 16, for 30 days.
  • On March 12 President MartĂ­n Vizcarra announced the suspension of classes at university and vocational educational institutions, following his March 11 announcement suspending primary and secondary school classes through March 30.