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Americans rush to leave Liberia

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The United States Embassy near Monrovia appears to be overwhelmed by requests from U.S. citizens here to be repatriated home in the wake of the rapid increase of the COVID-19 cases in Liberia.

“We have received numerous requests for information regarding repatriation; our team is working to identify transportation options for U.S. citizens seeking to return to the United States. At this time, there is no confirmed flight”, an embassy statement posted on its website last week reads.

The U.S. Embassy here has been involved in gradual repatriation of Americans in Liberia since March thru chartered flights since the Roberts International Airport shut down to the public as part measures instituted by the Government of Liberia prevent spread of the COVID-19.

U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Christine Elder departed Liberia on Saturday, March 21, after nearly four years at the helm of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia.

In a farewell message dispatched subsequently from Washington, D.C. dated March 25, to Liberians, Ambassador Elder said, “Let me begin by saying that I am very moved by your expressions of concern for my health. I am quite well, but over the past 15 years, I have had 3 surgeries on my lungs. With the closure of international air routes, the U.S. government and I decided that this was the right time to transition the leadership of our Embassy, which had been anticipated for this May or June. The Embassy’s very experienced Deputy Chief of Mission, Alyson Grunder, will serve as Chargé d’affaires until there is a new U.S. Ambassador.”

On March 14, the Department of State authorized the departure of U.S. personnel and family members from any diplomatic or consular post in the world who have been medically determined to be at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19.The exercise began with evacuation of U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers from their posts around the world, including Liberia.

On March 22, 2020, the Liberian Ministry of Health declared the COVID-19 a National Health Emergency and announced the closure of Roberts International Airport (with limited exceptions) as of March 23 at 11:59 PM. Since then, flights to and from Liberia have been heavily restricted to humanitarian and emergency cases.

However, the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia says it has no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens.

“If an Embassy-chartered flight becomes available, prior to boarding, all confirmed passengers must sign a promissory to reimburse the U.S. government for the cost of the flight at a later date. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have submitted promissory notes will be considered for future flights. Please note that submitting a promissory note is not a guarantee of a seat. Only passengers who receive an email confirming a seat on a flight or confirming standby status should proceed to the airport if a flight is announced”, the embassy’s post details. Story by Jonathan Browne

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