As the U.S. steps up its response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Department of Homeland Security is warning airline passengers that their flights may wind up rerouted if officials discover mid-flight that someone onboard has been in China in the last 14 days.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a “handful” of flights will be heading to China to bring Americans back home from Hubei Province, which is at the heart of the outbreak.
“The exact timing of those we’re still coordinating with the Chinese government,” Pompeo said at a news conference Monday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. “We anticipate that they will happen in the next handful of days and we’ll return those American citizens.”
Pompeo said: “We may well end up bringing some citizens back from other countries as well. We’re working through the details on that.” And he said the U.S. may try to deliver some medical supplies to the region.
“We’re working closely and hand-in-hand with the Chinese government to try and resolve what is now this global epidemiological challenge, and so we’ll have more details exactly on when those flights will depart and when they return and how they’ll return to the United States before too long,” he said.
The DHS guidance on airline flights was included in a notice released by the department Sunday as new travel restrictions officially go into effect for flights commencing after 5 p.m. EDT.
Under the new rules, U.S. citizens who have traveled in China within the last 14 days will be re-routed to one of eight designated airports, where they will undergo enhanced health screening procedures.
With files from the Associated Press.