Afghanistan crisis: 16 of 78 new evacuees test COVID-19 positive
Sixteen of the 78 evacuees from Afghanistan, who had landed in India on Tuesday, have tested positive for the coronavirus, reports say. All 78 have since been quarantined by the government as a precautionary measure. However, all the 16 returnees are said to be asymptomatic. India has airlifted hundreds of staffers and civilians from Afghanistan since the Taliban took over the country.
They had landed at Delhi airport on Tuesday morning
The 78 new evacuees had landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on Tuesday morning, where they were tested for COVID-19. Among those infected are three people who carried the copies of the Guru Granth Sahib (holy scriptures of Sikhs) from Kabul. Union Ministers Hardeep Puri and V Muraleedharan were also present at the airport to receive the fresh batch of evacuees.
Health Ministry mandates 14-day quarantine for Afghan returnees
"Dharmender Singh, Kulraj Singh, and Himmat Singh, all three who brought Saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji from Afghanistan have been tested corona positive and have been sent to quarantine center. I pray for their speedy recovery," Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson RP Singh said, according to The Indian Express. The Union Health Ministry has notably mandated a 14-day quarantine for all Afghan returnees.
India evacuated over 800 people from Kabul
India has been evacuating its staffers, nationals, as well as Afghan citizens from Kabul over the past several days. It has so far airlifted more than 800 people since the Taliban capture, including nearly 200 embassy staffers and security personnel and 228 Indian citizens. However, some 200 more people are yet to be evacuated from the war-torn country.
Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan earlier this month
The Taliban, who had brutally ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, regained control of the country earlier this month, bringing an end to the 20-year-long war. Soon after the takeover, countries began evacuating their troops and citizens, and thousands of Afghans swarmed the Kabul airport making desperate attempts to flee the country. Many people have been killed in the chaos that ensued.
US President says he's sticking to August withdrawal deadline
Meanwhile, United States President Joe Biden has said that he wants to stick to the August 31 deadline for troop pullout from Afghanistan. "The sooner we can finish, the better," he said, citing a growing risk of terror attacks.