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US suspends routine visa services worldwide amid Covid-19 crisis

US suspends routine visa services worldwide amid Covid-19 crisis
The US State Department has temporarily suspended all “routine visa services” at its embassies and consulates around the world as part of its efforts to tackle the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Embassies and consulates will cancel “all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020,” a note on the department’s website said on Friday.

The department said that it will continue to provide “urgent and emergency” visa services “as resources will allow.”

It said routine services will resume “as soon as possible” but that it was “unable to provide a specific date” at this time.

Services to US citizens will continue to be available.

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Applicants with an “urgent matter” who need to travel immediately should follow guidelines on the individual embassy’s website to request an “emergency appointment,” it advised.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US itself surpassed 10,000 on Thursday, doubling over two days as states begin ramping up their testing efforts.

The US is facing a national shortage of critical supplies like surgical masks and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised front line healthcare staff on Thursday to use scarves and bandanas as a "last resort" if supplies run out.

There are now almost 250,000 confirmed cases of the infection worldwide and more than 10,000 deaths according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

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