Covid-19 outbreak hits US Embassy in Afghanistan

More than 100 people at the US Embassy in Kabul have Covid-19, one person has died, and several have been medically evacuated as a wave of the deadly pandemic hits Afghanistan and the US military withdrawal from the country continues.

“COVID-19 is surging in the Mission,” an Embassy management noticed dated June 17 said. “114 of our colleagues now have COVID and are in isolation; one has died, and several have been medevaced.”

The notice said that “military hospital ICU resources are at full capacity, forcing our health units to create temporary, on-compound COVID-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients.”

“95% of our cases are individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated,” it noted.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the country is at “a crisis point as infections and deaths are spiralling out of control.” Infection rates are up approximately 2400% this month, the organization said in a statement Thursday.

Amid the outbreak, all personnel at the embassy’s compound “are confined to quarters, except to get food from the DFACs,” a military term for dining facilities, “or to exercise or relax outdoors, alone,” the notice said, outlining a series of restrictions on activities and work.

“Exceptions for work outside of quarters must be both mission-critical and time-sensitive, and approved by supervisors in writing,” it said.

The notice called for those coming to the embassy to be vaccinated before arrival, noting that “failure to do this puts everyone in the community at risk.”

“Please avail yourselves of the vaccines available in the Embassy. Over 90% of our Afghan and TCN Staff have received vaccines and we have more vaccine available,” it said.

“Restrictions will continue until the chain of transmission is broken,” it said, warning that “failure to abide by the Mission’s COVID policies will result in consequences up to and including removal from Post on the next available flight.”

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment on the outbreak, which comes as the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan is “more than 50% complete,” according to US Central Command.

The embassy publicly announced last week it was suspending all visa operations in response to the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. That move has prompted even greater concern among lawmakers and advocates for the fate of the Afghans who helped the United States during its nearly two decade military campaign on the ground, as it presents another obstacle in the special immigrant visa application process.

Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter said last Friday that applications at the Chief of Mission stage would continue to be processed in Washington, DC.

In response to the suspension of visa operations, Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the administration to look into the possibility of humanitarian parole, which “is used to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to an emergency,” according to US Citizen and Immigration Services.

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