Colorado student thankful to be home from Ecuador while others are still stranded abroad

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DENVER (KDVR) –  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States is working to help stranded U.S. citizens return home as several countries continue to significantly restrict air travel.

“We’ve heard from individuals, members of Congress – we’re trying to get Americans back from places where air travel has been disrupted,” said Pompeo, citing a repatriation task force. 

He said some U.S. citizens have been able to get flights out of Peru and Morocco despite travel restrictions.

Earlier this week, the Department of State issued a Do Not Travel advisory, warning U.S. citizens that they may be forced to remain outside of the United States for “an indefinite timeframe” if they don’t immediately return to this country.

“I definitely feel very, very, very lucky to be home and to be with my family and to know that they’re safe,” said Elizabeth Brandel, a Centennial resident who arrived back in the United States on Monday. 

She said she made the decision to leave Ecuador a month before her study abroad term was complete.

“I have never felt so thankful that I made that decision so quickly, but at the same time, I do feel a little guilty,” she said, explaining that two of her fellow classmates and a professor are stranded in Ecuador.

“It’s really scary to know that they have no control over the situation,” she said.

The U.S. Embassy in Ecuador posted information for travelers on its website earlier this week announcing that it was working to facilitate travel home for Americans during the COVID-19 crisis.

Officials advised citizens to look at charter flight options or to contact commercial airlines directly for assistance.

“The Government of Ecuador has prohibited all foreigners and Ecuadorians from arriving via air, land, or sea. As of March 17, Ecuador has also prohibited domestic passenger flights and restricted entry to the Galapagos Islands,” and advisory on the Embassy’s site said. “At this time, we understand these restrictions are scheduled to be in place until April 5.”

“We’re urging individuals, when they can get back on their own – they traveled there on their own – if they can get back on their own, they ought to try to do that,” said Pompeo.

Pompeo could not confirm how many Americans are still stranded, but he said he believed the government had a large number of people identified.

He encouraged overseas travelers to register at step.state.gov, so the government will be able to track them.

Brandel said she would advise other international travelers to follow her lead and head home.

“The fact of the matter is that nothing is certain at this point. The entire world is shutting down, and there is no way to predict what will happen. It’s important to know that if there is anything you can do as quickly as you can, you should do it,” said Brandel. 

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