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US Government Issues Highest Travel Warning for China Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

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As a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the United States Department of State has raised its travel advisory for China to Level 4 and issued a “do not travel” warning.

According to CNBC.com, the State Department issuing the highest travel warning possible shows the seriousness of the situation, as health officials in China confirmed the virus has killed at least 213 people and the number of cases climbed to over 9,600.

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On the State Department’s official travel advisory page, the agency said people still in China “should consider departing using commercial means.” The U.S. government has also requested all non-essential personnel defer travel to China due to the outbreak.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global emergency, which helps the international group mobilize financial and political support to contain the coronavirus.

In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday it had confirmed the first human-to-human transmission of the virus in the country. The Chicago woman reportedly gave the illness to her husband after returning from a trip to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

The fear of the coronavirus is impacting all aspects of the travel industry, as around 6,000 passengers and crew members were held aboard the Costa Smeralda cruise ship in Italy Thursday as officials investigated a potential coronavirus case.

United States President Donald Trump and his administration are also considering suspending flights to and from China as a result of the growing outbreak, while carriers serving the country have already suspended or reduced flights.

Officials said the coronavirus outbreak is costing the global tourism industry billions of dollars in lost revenue during a typically busy Lunar New Year period.

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U.S. State Department Stops Issuing Passports Amid COVID-19

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The U.S. Department of State has scaled back its Passport Agency operations and will no longer be issuing new passports in view of the situation surrounding the still-escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel + Leisure pointed out that the release of this directive in late March coincided with the State Department’s issuance of a Level 4 travel advisory, which warns Americans to avoid all international travel and instructing those outside U.S. borders to return home immediately or risk being stranded abroad for an indefinite period of time.

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The Passport Divisions’ recent policy change mentioned that those who had already applied to obtain a new passport or renew an existing one prior to March 20, 2020, will not have their orders affected. The agency said that it would honor its commitment to fulfilling those expedited-service orders placed on or before March 19 within two to three weeks, door-to-door.

Moving forward, passports will be available only to persons facing qualifying life-or-death emergencies, such as serious illnesses, injuries or deaths in their immediate family, which require them to travel outside the United States within 72 hours’ time.

Such persons will need to not only provide their passport application and supporting documents, and proof of planned international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket or itinerary), but also proof of the life-or-death circumstance. This might include documents like a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional, and must be translated into English.

To make an appointment at a passport center in the event of a life-or-death emergency, one must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a. m. and 5:00 p.m., or Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST); or call (202) 647-4000 outside of regular business hours.

No indication was given as to when the State Department would again begin accepting passport applications. As is now the case among most organizations that are attempting to respond to the continually evolving pandemic, its future plans remain up in the air. The announcement only stated, “The status of our operations may change quickly. We will update this notice as the status changes.”

For more information, visit travel.state.gov.

This post was published by our news partner: TravelPulse.com | Article Source

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