Flights of Afghan evacuees from staging areas abroad will resume this week as part of Operation Allies Welcome, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The announcement comes after flights had been put on pause last month after four cases of measles – a highly contagious virus – were discovered among Afghans. They are expected to resume Tuesday, according to a DHS official.
The White House said at the time that the halt had been recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after the cases were diagnosed. Flights of Afghans, many of which were operated by commercial carriers, had been coming to the United States from military bases in Germany and Qatar.
Measles is a highly contagious virus that can lead to serious health complications. It was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. However, travelers have continued to bring the virus to the US, leading to local spread and outbreaks among people who aren’t vaccinated.
More than 49,000 Afghan evacuees temporarily staying at military installations in the US have been vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and varicella (chickenpox). According to a DHS news release, they “will remain at domestic military installations for at least 21 days after the MMR vaccine is administered.” Evacuees are also receiving vaccinations in Europe and the Middle East.
Individuals are also being offered Covid-19 vaccines and tested for the virus.
The Biden administration and refugee resettlement agencies are racing to find permanent housing for the thousands of Afghans set to be resettled in the United States.
“The ultimate goal of Operation Allies Welcome is to successfully resettle our Afghan allies into local communities while prioritizing national security and public health,” said Robert Fenton, senior response official for Operation Allies Welcome.
This story has been updated with additional details Monday.