Almost all operations shut down as COVID-19 outbreak hits U.S. Embassy in Kabul

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Ahmad Nazar)

COVID-19 has spread through the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, with one person dying from the virus and 114 others infected.

Nearly all operations have shut down at the embassy, where staffers are working to coordinate the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. On Thursday, a note approved by Chargé d'Affaires Ross Wilson stated that COVID-19 is "surging in the mission," and several staffers have been medically evacuated. Intensive care units at military hospitals are at full capacity, the note said, "forcing our health units to create temporary, on-compound COVID-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients."

The infected staffers are in isolation, and if any are caught breaking the embassy's COVID-19 policies, they will face "consequences up to and including removal from post on the next available flight," the note said. Vaccines have been made available to all employees, and the note stated that 95 percent of the COVID-19 cases are among staffers who have not been vaccinated or are only partially vaccinated. More than 90 percent of the Afghan and non-American staff have been vaccinated.

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The American Foreign Services Association, the trade union for diplomats, wants to make vaccination mandatory at U.S. missions, The Guardian reports. "This has always been a matter of life and death, but now it literally has become exactly that for our members and colleagues serving their country abroad," the union said in a statement.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.