Sixteen Afghanistan evacuees out of the 78 persons who were flown to India on Tuesday, 24 August, have tested positive for COVID-19

An Air India flight from Dushanbe to Delhi carried 78 passengers, including 25 Indians, who were evacuated from Kabul on an IAF aircraft, the Ministry of External Affairs had stated on Tuesday.

The 16 COVID-positive returnees are asymptomatic. As a precautionary measure, all 78 evacuees have been quarantined.

Three Sikh granthis, who had carried copies of the Sikh holy scriptures to India from Afghanistan, are among those who tested positive.

Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who had received the contingent of returnees at the airport, had carried the holy scriptures on his head as a gesture of reverence, a video shared by the minister shows.

India's Evacuation Operations

The Indian government, on 16 August, had initiated 'Operation Devi Shakti' to evacuate Indians from Kabul.

The Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement on 16 August, had said that it was in touch with the Indian nationals in the country who wished to return.

""We are in constant touch with the representatives of Afghan, Sikh, and Hindu communities. We will facilitate repatriation to India of those who wish to leave Afghanistan. There are also a number of Afghans who have been our partners in the promotion of our mutual development, educational and people to people endeavours. We will stand by them."" - Ministry of External Affairs

A total of 626 persons, including 228 Indian citizens, have been evacuated from Afghanistan so far, Puri has indicated. Of these, 77 evacuees belong to the Sikh community.