Gayle Guynup, 68, is one of hundreds of U.S. citizens stuck in Morocco, on a vacation they can’t find a way to end.
She said she feels abandoned by her government.
“Egypt, Turkey, France and Great Britain have already taken actions on getting flights for their nationals out,” she told The Washington Post. “And our embassy [in Morocco] has not reached out to any of us.”
She added: “It’s just a certain amount of anxiety as the days go by. The information we are given, the rumors we hear from the tour guides and the people that we meet … we still don’t hear anything from our government, so we don’t know how long this will go on.”
A State Department official told The Post on Tuesday that it’s aware some countries have imposed new flight suspensions, and it’s “considering all options to assist U.S. citizens in these countries and are continuously assessing travel conditions in all areas affected by covid-19,” which is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Rabat’s Twitter account urged U.S. citizens to try to book a seat on one of 50 commercial flights the British Embassy in Morocco was organizing to London until Thursday.
With gratitude to our partners at the British Embassy in Morocco, we again confirm there will be 30 commercial flights (EasyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and Tui) leaving from Agadir and Marrakech to London until 19 March.— U.S. Embassy Morocco (@USEmbMorocco) March 17, 2020
The embassy’s website, last updated on Monday, urged “U.S. citizens who fall within identified high risk categories for COVID-19 to contact the Consulate General’s American Citizen Services.”
People over age 60 and those with preexisting health conditions are at a higher risk of a severe, and even deadly, reaction to the coronavirus, according to medical experts.
Guynup estimated that among the Americans stranded at her hotel in Casablanca, nearly all are above 60.
“I think a 60-year-old would look like a teenager in this group,” she said of those who, like her, booked the trip through Gate 1 Travel.
Rhonda Klein, 62, a U.S. citizen who is part of a group of 12 Americans stranded in Marrakesh, said that she and at least one other person she was with had a preexisting health condition and require medication they couldn’t easily acquire in Morocco.
“The State Department has not been of any help,” Klein, a lawyer from Atlanta, said Tuesday. “Not only can no one tell us anything, but what we do get told is conflicting information.”
She finally caught a flight out to Brussels on Wednesday.
Nine Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday urging that “Americans overseas should have full confidence that the State Department will support them when abroad and facilitate their efforts to return to the United States if they are seeking to evacuate.”
Guynup is at the Novotel in Casablanca, which initially closed per the government’s order but then reopened just to house stranded tourists such as her. She’s grateful for the kindness Moroccans have shown her.
But she’s heard reports that some other hotels are kicking tourists out amid pressure from the government.
On Tuesday, she and at least 80 other U.S. citizens walked together to the nearby U.S. Consulate to ask for a meeting, which they were denied, she said.
“What I think is despicable is that our hotel is only four blocks from the U.S. Consulate,” she said. “They could schedule a meeting with our group."
The State Department did not immediately respond to a question about the incident.
In the meantime, the stranded Americans have set up a Facebook group, put together a spreadsheet with the names of more than 200 U.S. citizens in Casablanca, and are calling members of Congress and anyone else they hope can help.
In February, the United States evacuated hundreds of U.S. citizens and residents from Wuhan, China, then the epicenter of the epidemic. Some evacuees described the journey as disorganized and frustrating.
U.S. citizens in Morocco are hoping the government will organize similar flights for them. A State Department official did not respond to a question whether the government planned to send repatriation flights.
Complicating the situation, however, is that in recent days, the United States has put in place bans on travelers from Europe, on top of previous travel bans from China and Iran. The recent restrictions left U.S. citizens in a desperate dash to return on the few remaining outbound planes. Subsequent crowds arriving in U.S. airports have been packed together at customs, forced to violate the official directive to maintain a safe distance.
John Stanley, 68, a retired judge from New York City was supposed to fly home March 17. But when Royal Air Maroc canceled his direct flight to New York, he found himself stranded in Casablanca.
Without a valid boarding pass, he wasn’t able to enter the airport to try to purchase a new ticket, and had troubling booking one online as well.
France was able to organize special flights out Sunday and Monday, and some outbound Air France flights still remain.
Wednesday afternoon in Morocco, Stanley received good news: He was able to book a flight on Air France to New York City via Paris for March 28.
He said he knows of many U.S. citizens, several with medical conditions, still waiting for word if and when they’ll get a flight out.
Coronavirus: What you need to know
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Vaccines: Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 12 and older get an updated coronavirus booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant circulating now. You’re eligible for the shot if it has been at least two months since your initial vaccine or your last booster. An initial vaccine series for children under 5, meanwhile, became available this summer. Here’s what to know about how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections and booster history.
Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.
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