Mon | May 25, 2020

US Embassy denies wooing health workers for COVID fight

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2020 | 12:27 AM

The United States Embassy in Kingston says America is not seeking to get health professionals to abandon their nation’s fight against COVID-19 to bolster its own capacity, having “clarified” an appeal that the State Department acknowledged was ambiguous.

The embassy was reacting to a Gleaner article yesterday that highlighted information put out by the US State Department calling for healthcare professionals, especially those working on COVID-19 issues, to contact their nearest US embassies for visa appointments.

“We encourage medical professionals seeking work in the US on a work or exchange visitor visa (H or J), particularly those working on COVID-19 issues, to contact the nearest US Embassy/Consulate for a visa appointment,” the department said in a news post on its website.

The announcement also indicated that those who were already in the United States on those visas should speak with their sponsors about extending them.

Yesterday, the US Embassy said the initial post was an attempt to be responsive and to provide clear guidance to applicants who had questions concerning petitions by medical professionals.

The Gleaner asked for clarification from the local embassy on why health professionals treating with COVID-19 were specifically targeted.

“We recognise that our initial notice was not clearly worded and have since updated it to clarify that this only applied to applicants with approved petitions or existing participants in certified exchange programmes,” the embassy said.

The embassy claimed yesterday that The Gleaner presented “a number of incorrect assertions about the US government’s policies” but failed to offer specifics.

Ian Brownlee, the assistant secretary for consular affairs, quoted in a Washington Post news report, also “acknowledged that the initial message was ‘not as clear as it might have been’”.