James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. President. Under the President’s leadership, my team and I at the State Department are doing our part to protect the American people from the virus and, importantly, to get them home.
As you know, when many countries shut down their rail lines, their buses, their infrastructure systems, the capacity to get out of those countries — they were trapped, they’re stranded — the State Department swung into action.
Since January 29th, we have now repatriated over 50,000 United States citizens back to their homes from more than 90 countries, more than 490 flights back to the United States from all across the world. This worldwide scale of our repatriation efforts is without parallel in our lifetime. We are coordinating with foreign governments, militaries, airport authorities, medical units, transportation companies, hotels, you name it. We’re working with them to make sure the American people get back to be with their families.
You can see, behind me, the map of the flights, that we have brought back people from all across the world. Every day, I get a chance to hear some of the remarkable stories from our team. Let me give you just a couple of examples.
Our mission in Peru: Working with the Peruvian military and police forces to send riverboats up the — up the river to get citizens that were stranded deep inside the Amazon forest.
The Repatriation Task Force at State Department, our consular officers have done great work. I want to thank our partners in the Department of Defense who have helped with some of these flights back home and other government agencies — our sisters and brothers across the United States government in this administration that have helped get these people back.
And then, lastly, aside from our repatriation efforts, we continue to help countries around the world as well. We’ve got CDC officials helping these countries with expertise and all the things that these countries need to get their citizens safe and healthy and back so that we can get the economy all across the world — the global economy — back on its feet when this crisis is over.
Q Mr. Secretary, how many of these staffers have tested positive for coronavirus? Have they been tested? Are they going into quarantine? And what does this do to diplomatic efforts overseas if you’re pulling 50,000 people out of state capitals — or national capitals, nation capitals all over the world?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the vast majority of these 50,000 weren’t our officers. These were ordinary citizens who were there, traveling for business or for commercial or for their trip of a lifetime. We’ve seen some of them in the cruise ships, but of course they’re stranded all over the world.
So our embassies — save for the one that is in Wuhan, which we did pull everybody out of — the rest of our facilities around the world are all open. We’ve had a handful of our folks now test positive, but we feel like we have a good handle on it and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that not just the State Department officials, but our Department of Defense colleagues that are working on these missions as well are doing so in a way that reduces risk to them and their wellbeing also.
Q Thank you so much. Do you feel like China held — withheld critical information from the United States? And will there be any consequences for that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You know, this is not the time for retribution, but it is still the time for clarity and transparency. We’re still working on this problem set. There’s still data that these good people need so that they can perform their analysis of how to both develop therapeutics and a vaccine and to understand where this virus is.
So, every country, China included — every country needs to be transparent about what’s gone on in their country. They need to share that data — we share ours with the world — so that the best scientists in the world can get to the right conclusions and bring this economy, this global economy back to the place that we all want it to be as quickly as we can.
Every country has that responsibility. It started in China, and so they had that special responsibility to get it right quickly and fast. Ask every country. As we move forward in the days and weeks ahead, make sure we share that. Do it — do it right. Do it well. And when we do, we’ll get this thing back on.
Q But early on, should they have shared their data sooner with the United States?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Every country has an obligation to share that information accurately, timely, completely, transparently, and thoroughly, just as quickly as they can gather it. We’ll leave for another time to evaluate how everyone did in that.
Q You said that China has a responsibility to get correct figures. How would you broadly characterize cooperation with China right now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s lots of places we’ve been cooperating, right? They’re providing us assistance where we need it. There are places on the ground now where we do have access to the data we need, and we’re deeply appreciative of that.
They’ve said they want to cooperate. We’re completely prepared to cooperate with them. That cooperation means sharing data, being transparent, being upfront, allowing information to flow freely. That’s our expectation, not — not just of China, though — of every country that is in this place today.