The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted, well, everything. The travel industry has already taken a hit and an upcoming announcement by the U.S. Department of State isn’t going to make it any better.
According to Politico, the State Department is prepared to issue a Level 4 travel advisory. This is the highest warning level and it effectively prevents Americans from traveling abroad. Additionally, Americans currently abroad would need to find a way home or make preparations to shelter in place. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is said to have already approved raising the travel advisory from its current level of 3.
Two State Department officials confirmed the pending advisory. The State Department press office did not respond to requests to comment, but announced on Thursday that U.S. passport agencies will only accept applications from customers with life-or-death emergencies who plan to travel within 72 hours.
While the necessity of the advisory is understood, this is going to make it even more difficult for Americans abroad to return home. Numerous countries have already shut down their borders, and flights are being canceled on a daily basis. It’s unfortunate but it’s not like there was any way for the government to preemptively prepare and put protocols in place so that Americans both home and abroad aren’t left high and dry. That’d be too much like doing their job.
On a personal level, the news is disappointing but not unexpected. I had a trip planned for April to visit my best friend, who’s currently teaching in Japan. I tried to reschedule my flight last week but I’m pretty sure I’m just one of thousands in the same boat. Given the overwhelming level of the current crisis, I’m not that pressed about it. I can just play the Yakuza games and call it a day. There are people currently stranded away from their friends and family with no idea when and how they’re getting home. I hope those folks can find a way to stay safe and hopefully get home sooner as opposed to later.