WASHINGTON – The Biden government temporarily suspended flights to the US by Afghan evacuees after four people who recently arrived in the US tested positive for measles.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday the decision to pause flights was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “out of great caution in the face of four measles cases”. Those who test positive will be quarantined and full contact tracing is ongoing, Psaki said.
A senior Homeland Security official and two U.S. officials said the measles cases were found in evacuees who landed at Dulles International Airport. The US officials said at least one inter-agency inter-agency meeting was held this morning to best deal with the outbreak.
Some have raised concerns on inter-agency calls that the break could create a bottleneck in the evacuation process, according to senior DHS and a U.S. official.
Evacuees are screened at US bases abroad before flying to the US, but many of the host countries only allow evacuees to stay in their country for a limited number of days. The current agreement between the US and German governments, for example, allows evacuees to stay at Ramstein Air Base for up to 10 days.
All Afghans entering the US must be vaccinated against measles. Psaki said the government is looking for ways to vaccinate people while they are still abroad and that Afghans are already being offered vaccines at military bases in the United States
It is unclear when the first measles case was discovered. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and his tour group visited the transit center for Afghan evacuees at Ramstein Air Force Base earlier this week.
Courtney Kube contributed.