Afghans Living in COVID-Saturated Iran Flee Across Border, Headed Home

If you are looking at that headline and saying, so what, consider this….

We are still admitting Special Immigrant Visa holders from Afghanistan to the US—821 in March— but the average is over 1,200 for each of the six months in this fiscal year.  (Go to the Refugee Processing Center to see where I get the SIV numbers.)

Are they being tested, or required to quarantine as they are being flown into the US RIGHT NOW?

Here is the news that caught my eye this morning.  Read this and then I have a question.

From the AP and published at the Chicago Tribune:

Hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees flee from Iran’s hot zone, spreading the coronavirus

Mahdi Noori, a young Afghan refugee in Iran, was left jobless when the factory where he’d worked cutting stone was shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak. He had no money, was afraid of contracting the virus and had no options. So he headed home.

At one point, 15,000 a day were crossing back into Afghanistan!

He joined a large migration of some 200,000 Afghans and counting who have been flowing home across the border for weeks — from a country that is one of the world’s biggest epicenters of the pandemic to an impoverished homeland that is woefully unprepared to deal with it.

At the border, Noori lined up with thousands of other returning refugees earlier this month, crowded together waiting to cross. “I saw women and children on the border, and I was thinking, What if they get infected now, here?” the 20-year-old told The Associated Press.

The NYT reported in mid March that Afghans returning from India had temps taken, but that is not happening at the border of Iran and Afghanistan. And then, as we all know now, fevers do not appear in a large number of those infected.

The massive influx of returnees, who are going back untested and unmonitored to cities, towns and villages around the country, threatens to create a greater outbreak in Afghanistan that could overwhelm its health infrastructure wrecked by decades of war.

So far, Afghan authorities have confirmed 273 cases*** of the new coronavirus, more than 210 of them in people who returned from Iran. Four deaths have been recorded.

Afghan Health Minister Ferozudin Feroz says the virus has already spread because of the returnees. “If the cases increase, then it will be out of control and we will need help,” he said.

He and other Afghan officials expressed concern that Iran would push out the more than 1 million Afghans working illegally in the country. Iran has already barred entry from Afghanistan, preventing any who left from coming back. Iran has had more than 58,000 coronavirus cases and more than 3,600 deaths.

***This morning (4/7) Worldometer has Iran at 62,589 cases and Afghanistan has 423.

More here.

Now here is my question:

Suppose we are good American citizens and self-isolate and manage to flatten that magical curve in the next two weeks or so, what is to stop another outbreak beginning say in May or June as we bring in refugees from countries who are weeks behind us and have not yet flattened their curve (if that is even possible in Afghanistan)?

Check out that NYT story about how sick, infected Afghans are escaping hospitals to go home.

Actually my question applies to any country in the world that has not yet been widely infected.

We clean up the US and then import new cases from parts of the world that are late to the game, and end up with new pockets in states that thought they were through the worst.

Top ‘welcoming’ states for these special refugees from Afghanistan are California, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington.