Covid-19: India pulls out all staff from consulates in Herat, Jalalabad
India has shifted all personnel at its consulates in Herat and Jalalabad to the Afghanistan capital of Kabul because of concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic, people familiar with developments said on Sunday.
The people cited above said on condition of anonymity the decision to move the diplomats and other staff was made because the consulate at Herat is located very close to the border with Iran and the region has seen a massive influx of Afghan refugees and workers from the neighbouring country that has been hit hard by the Coronavirus.
It was also felt that the medical facilities in both Herat and Jalalabad were not as good as those available in Kabul, the people said.
This is probably the first step taken by the Indian government to relocate its diplomatic staff due to Covid-19-related concerns. It also came in the wake of reports that Islamic State terrorists targeted a Sikh place of worship in Kabul due to the strong security measures at the Indian mission in the Afghan capital.
There was no official word on the development from the external affairs ministry. The exact number of personnel involved couldn’t immediately be ascertained.
India has four consulates in Afghanistan at Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan, is located a little more than 100km from the border crossing to Iran at Islam Qala.
According to the WHO, Iran has so far recorded 32,332 infections and 2,378 deaths while Afghanistan has reported 106 infections and two deaths. Herat has been described as the epicentre of the virus in Afghanistan and experts believe the reported figures for the country do no present an accurate picture.
“We fear that Herat will turn into another Wuhan,” Afghan public health minister Ferozuddin Feroz has been quoted as saying by The New York Times. Provincial authorities imposed a lockdown in Herat from Wednesday.
The Afghan health ministry has estimated that half of the country’s estimated 34 million people will contract the virus and more than 110,000 could probably die. Experts believe the worst-affected areas will include cities such as Herat and regions along the 921-km border with Iran. The International Organisation for Migration (IMO) has said more than 115,000 Afghans returned from Iran between March 8 and 21.