US military screening evacuees for COVID-19 at Kabul airport

US military screening evacuees for COVID-19 at Kabul airport
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The U.S. military has put in place several COVID-19 screening measures in the midst of the chaotic evacuation out of Afghanistan’s capital, Defense Department press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyTrump Defense chief blocked idea to send 250,000 troops to border: report Pentagon offers to pay families of those killed in Afghan drone strike China, US military officials held talks to discuss relations MORE said Monday.

Medical personnel at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul are conducting COVID-19 screening “for those who are feeble or symptomatic,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon.

Depending on the guidelines at specific temporary safe haven locations, additional screenings and measures are taking place. All passengers entering the United States are tested upon arrival, “and then medical professionals make the proper decisions after that,” Kirby said.  

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Kirby acknowledged that there are concerns the 5,800 U.S. soldiers on the ground in Kabul are at risk of contracting the coronavirus, but he did not have details on whether any have tested positive.

“I don't know what positive results that may have come in for soldiers working at the airfield ... but obviously, their health and safety remains a top concern for all of us,” Kirby said.

The crush of people attempting to flee Afghanistan at the Kabul airport has upped the chances the highly infectious virus could easily spread amongst those in the crowd and to U.S. aircrews ferrying people out of the city. And once on board, there is little room for people to distance from one another, with C-17 flights evacuating an average of 450 people per flight.

U.S. Transportation Command head Gen. Stephen Lyons said there are some mitigation efforts being taken by service members on the ground to prevent the spread, with “the vast majority” vaccinated against the virus.

“All the crews are obviously masking, but the Afghans that are on the aircraft are not masked,” Lyons told reporters later on Monday.

He added that “there are resources being applied to further test the evacuees upon arrival to these various safe havens.”

And White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Altria — FDA advisers endorse Pfizer vaccine for kids The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - White House to host lawmakers as negotiations over agenda hit critical stage MORE on Monday said Biden administration officials are figuring out how COVID-19 vaccinations would be offered to Afghan evacuees who arrive in the United States.

“We are working through offering vaccines and what that process will look like,” Psaki said during the White House press briefing. “I hope to have more of an update on that for you in the next day or two.”