US reaches out to foreign health workers amid coronavirus outbreak

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The United States has appealed to medical professionals, particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to reach out to the nearest embassy or consulate to request a visa appointment.

The appeal was made on Thursday, March 26 through the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website.

The announcement also allowed for extension of visas for foreign medical professionals already in the United States.

“J-1 Alien Physicians (medical residents) may consult with their program sponsor, ECFMG, to extend their programs in the United States. Generally, a J-1 program for a foreign medical resident can be extended one year at a time for up to seven years,” the statement read in part.

J-1 physicians are physicians sponsored as Exchange Visitors for participation in accredited clinical programs or directly associated fellowship programs of graduate medical education or training.

Normally, foreign physicians must be certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) which assesses the readiness of international medical graduates to enter residency or fellowship programs in the United States that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

The announcement came after the American Medical Association (AMA) on March 25 urged the Administration to take critical steps to expand the physician workforce to meet the increasing demands on the American health system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter addressed to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting-Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, the AMA called for opening visa processing at embassies and consulates around the world for physicians seeking to join U.S. residency programs that will start in July and urged public confirmation that J-1 physicians are permitted to be redeployed to new rotations.

The United States has been heavily hit by the pandemic after recent numbers proclaimed it has officially surpassed China and Italy in its number of COVID-19 cases.

According to a running tally kept by Worldometer, the U.S. has 85,612 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as the virus has claimed over 1300 lives with only 1,868 recovery.

Globally, the number of confirmed cases has exceeded half-a-million threshold totalling to 537,873 cases with 24,149 deaths while only 124,564 have recovered.

At the heart of Africa, Rwanda, on the other hand, has so far registered 50 confirmed cases as of the country’s latest Ministry of Health’s updates on Covid-19.