State warns foreigners ‘attacked’ in Ethiopia over coronavirus fears
BY LAURA KELLY
(thehill)-Foreigners in Ethiopia are coming under violent attacks since the country documented its first case of COVID-19 this week, according to a warning issued by the State Department on Wednesday.
The U.S. embassy in Ethiopia says it is receiving reports of foreigners being harassed and assaulted in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Some foreigners have been attacked with stones and denied transportation while being accused of being infected with COVID-19, it said.
“The Embassy continues to receive reports regarding a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment revolving around the announcement of COVID-19 in Ethiopia,” the embassy wrote in a security alert on its website.
The Embassy did not clarify if Americans are in specific danger but said harassment is targeting foreigners in general, with reports that people are shouting “China” and “Ferengi,” meaning “foreigner” coupled with “coronavirus.”
Ethiopia reported its first cases on March 13 and the World Health Organization’s most recent update identified five cases of COVID-19 as imported and not caused by local transmission, although those numbers are likely to grow as new cases are identified.
Americans abroad have been caught up in short-notice border closures that have created mass confusion on efforts to return back to the U.S.
Ethiopia has yet to institute border closures, but neighboring Somalia has suspended all international flights for 15 days beginning Wednesday.
The State Department encourages Americans abroad wishing to leave to check with their airline carriers and refer to their local embassy websites for updates.
The Department’s travel advisory Twitter account (@Travelgov) is posting health, safety and travel updates. On Wednesday, it announced that the Central American country of Bolivia is preparing to close its borders and urged Americans who want to leave to take commercial flights while still available.
Yet the information updates are drawing criticism from Americans who are unable to get out of the countries before the borders closed.
In Peru, over 500 Americans have organized over social media in an appeal for help from the U.S. government to evacuate them from the country. Peru closed its borders for a 15-day quarantine and is expected to allow international flights to resume beginning April 1.
Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is encouraging foreign travelers unable to depart to register with the agency and receive the latest guidance for tourists.
In Morocco, the U.S. embassy is directing Americans wanting to leave the country to book commercial flights to London through European airline carriers that are running “emergency commercial flights” from the cities of Agadir and Marrakesh. Flights are expected to end on March 19.
The flights are being coordinated through the British Embassy in Morocco and the U.S. Embassy said it can’t guarantee seats for Americans and the airlines include British Airways, Easy Jet, Ryan Air and TUI.
The U.S. has not announced any plans to evacuate American’s abroad since it had earlier undertaken evacuation flights from China and Japan as the coronavirus outbreak grew.
In early February, the State Department announced it had evacuated approximately 350 Americans from China.
On February 17, the U.S. evacuated Americans who were quarantined and stranded on the Diamond Princess cruise ship after two weeks of being docked off the coast of Japan.
But the Department has given no indication it is working to help Americans stranded abroad at this time. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday that he encourages Americans to “make good decisions” with their travel plans.
“You see our travel advisories as they go out, trying to make sure they’re in step with the latest data sets we have in each – not only in each country, but in every province, county, township,” he said. “So we’re articulating them properly so that Americans make good decisions about whether they should or should not travel.”
Other countries who are evacuating their citizens include Israel, which sent a commercial El Al flight to Peru to evacuate Israelis stuck in the country, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Twitter.
Last week, India sent a military aircraft to Iran to evacuate its nationals, its Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement. Iran has the second highest number of coronavirus cases behind China.