Covid outbreak forces the US embassy in Kabul to be blocked

A US Marine stands guard outside the US embassy December 21, 2001 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Paula Bronstein | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The U.S. embassy in Kabul was locked down Thursday as Covid cases in Afghanistan rise and the country’s fragile health system reaches its limits.

At the embassy, ​​114 employees tested positive for the coronavirus and are currently in isolation, one person has died and several people have been medically evacuated.

“The resources of the intensive care unit of the military hospital are running at full capacity, which is forcing our health units to create temporary Covid-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients. 95% of our cases are people who are not or not fully vaccinated.” The embassy wrote in a statement.

With immediate effect, the embassy said, employees would be restricted to their quarters, except to fetch food from restaurants or to exercise or relax in the open air alone.

“Individuals can walk, run, or relax outdoors without a mask provided they are ALONE, which means they are at least 6 meters away from others. Any further need requires a mask, ”the statement went on, adding that face-to-face meetings indoors are prohibited unless“ absolutely ”. business critical. “

People who do not adhere to the guidelines could be removed from the post “on the next available flight,” the embassy added.

“The restrictions will continue until the chain of transmission is broken,” the statement said.

Afghan hospitals are running out of medical equipment and other resources quickly as cases have increased 2,400% in the past month, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Thursday.

Last week, the US embassy in Kabul shut down all consular visa services to deal with an “intense third wave of Covid-19 cases,” which may hamper visa status for thousands of Afghans who have supported the US military through the conflict .

Legislators on Capitol Hill on Thursday expressed concern about whether the backlog of more than 10,000 Afghan translators and their families would be cleared before remaining US troops pull out of the war-weary country.

Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee during a hearing on the Pentagon’s budget proposal that “planning is underway” to protect Afghans who have served alongside US and NATO forces.

The country’s senior military officer added that the U.S. military would be able to carry out any request as the State Department conducts the thorough visa process for eligible Afghans.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said it had passed the center of its Herculean task of withdrawing troops and equipment from Afghanistan.

The US military has removed approximately 611 loads of material that were flown out of the country by large cargo planes, according to an update from US Central Command.

The flight crew assigned to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, carry their equipment into a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina on April 27, 2021.

Staff Sgt. Kylee Gardner | U.S. Air Force photo

Approximately 14,000 pieces of equipment that will not be handed over to the Afghan military have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction. The US officially handed over six facilities to the Afghan military.

Biden announced in April a full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by September 11th, which would end America’s longest war.

Biden’s withdrawal deadline breaks with a proposed deadline that the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban last year. Accordingly, all foreign armed forces should have left Afghanistan by May 1st.

The removal of approximately 3,000 US soldiers coincides with the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks that spurred America’s entry into protracted wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

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