“A blanket humanitarian waiver has been implemented for COVID testing for all persons the U.S. government is relocating from Afghanistan,” a spokesperson for the department said.
As Afghanistan had been a hotspot for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, medical exams, including COVID-19 tests, had been required for evacuees prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, which added extra urgency to efforts to get at-risk Afghans out.
Separately, at a State Department press briefing on Thursday, spokesman Ned Price told reporters that there are currently no COVID-19 protocols in place for evacuation flights from Kabul, as the first priority is “to get as many people out as we can.”
“What we are doing, depending on where these individuals go, and as you know, there are several transit countries, there sometimes will be testing in those third countries,” he said. “But our first priority right now is to bring as many people to safety as we can.”
Price added, “In Kabul at the airport, we don’t at present have the capacity to test everyone …”
The Pentagon says that some 9,000 people have been brought to safety since evacuation efforts began on Aug. 14, the day before Kabul was seized by the Taliban terrorist group. Of these, the United States evacuated about 3,000 people, including nearly 350 citizens, from Afghanistan’s Kabul airport on Thursday, a White House official said, noting that they were flown out of the country on 16 C-17 flights.
“Additional evacuees include family members of U.S. citizens, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and their families, and vulnerable Afghans,” the official said in a media pool report on Friday.
The State Department told The Epoch Times in an email that it believes there are 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan. The agency described the number as a rough estimate.
President Joe Biden said in an interview released earlier on Aug. 19 that there may be as many as 15,000 Americans still in Afghanistan. He told ABC News a day earlier that his administration won’t withdraw U.S. troops until all Americans who seek to leave have been evacuated, despite an Aug. 31 drawdown deadline he set previously.
“We’re going to stay till we get them all out,” Biden said.
The president has promised a “swift and forceful” response if the Taliban attacks U.S. troops or disrupts their evacuation operations.
“We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.