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Update 4/29/21 at 8:23 PST : The State Department’s official word on US Mission India’s authorized departure via the DPB of April 29, 2021:
QUESTION: The – in addition to this aid, you guys put out this new travel notice, travel alert today, which mentioned the authorized departure for families of U.S. government personnel at the embassy and the, what is it, four consulates. I’m just curious. Is this by popular demand? Were there people – and I know you don’t want to get into numbers or anything, but were people wanting to leave and have people left already under this – the authorized departure?
MR PRICE: Well, thanks for that question. And I think it’s important to speak for just a moment about what this was and importantly what this was not. Out of an abundance of caution, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure, so-called authorized departure, of family members of embassy – at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and the consulates throughout the country. Authorized departure doesn’t force anyone to leave; it doesn’t require anyone to leave. It gives these family members the option to depart if they wish. Departure, again, is not required.
There’s also been I think some misreporting, perhaps a misperception, that we provided revised guidance to private American citizens in India. That is not true. There was a pro forma reissuance of the travel advisory, the level four travel advisory that had previously been in effect, given COVID not only in India but also globally as well.
QUESTION: Yeah, but are people taking advantage of it? Were people wanting this, or was it just decided from here and from the ambassador or whoever the charge is that this would be a good idea? I mean, is there a rush to the exits?
MR PRICE: I don’t have the numbers. I’m not sure we’d be able to provide them, regardless, given —
QUESTION: I don’t want your numbers. I just want to know if people are taking advantage of this.
MR PRICE: Well, I think it speaks to the fact that we put the safety and health of our employees and their families, in this case – we prioritize that, and so that is why the department thought it prudent to give them the option to depart the country if they so wished.
This is a follow-up post to @StateDept Mum on US Mission India’s Covid Outbreak: Four FSNs Dead (Not Two), 100+ Positive Cases, What Else?
We’ve learned that four locally employed staff have died at US Mission India due to COVID, and not two as previously reported. One FSN died in November, and three have died during the current wave. We understand that there’s “a ton of infections” at US Mission India. While most of those ill are locally employed staff, there are some U.S. direct hire Americans who are also sick. There is speculation that most of the infection occurred before the vaccine became available at posts. We understand that Mission India has now gone back to Phase 1, mostly conducting work via telework.
Late on April 27, we also learned that family members of U.S. Government employees were approved for authorized departure, an order that allows for their voluntary evacuation from post. There was no official announcement of the order on April 27.
Previously, on April 21, 2021, the State Department issued a “Level 4-Do Not Travel” advisory for India due to COVID-19, crime, and terrorism.
On April 23, US Mission India issued an alert that Flights Departing India Are Available:
Flights to U.S. cities remain open. However, those originating from India to Canada, the UK, UAE, and South East Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong) have been suspended. United Airlines temporarily cancelled their flights on April 23 from Delhi to Chicago, Newark, and San Francisco due to technical difficulties. United is working to restore service as quickly as possible. Travelers should check with the airline for scheduling updates. United Airlines’ codeshare flights on Lufthansa and United’s flights from Mumbai have not been impacted. Delta’s codeshare flights from India on Air France and KLM also remain operational. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice and the Department of State has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory advising against all travel to India.
Post has issued three health alerts since April 28:
- Health Alert (28 April, 2021)
- Health Alert— Take Advantage of Commercial Transportation Options (28 April, 2021)
- Health Alert (U.S. Consulate General Chennai): Cancellation of Routine U.S. Citizen Services at the U.S. Consulate General Chennai until May 15, 2021 (28 April, 2021)
Late on April 28, the State Department issued an updated Level 4-Do Not Travel advisory for India advising Americans “not travel to India due to COVID-19” and to “exercise increased caution due to crime and terrorism.” It also announced that the Department “on April 28, 2021 … approved the voluntary departure of family members of U.S. government employees.” It advised that “U.S. citizens who wish to depart India should take advantage of available commercial transportation options. “
The SCA bureau is currently headed by Acting A/S Dean Thompson while the nominee for assistant secretary Ambassador Donald Lu awaits confirmation.
No nominee has been announced for U.S. Mission India as of this writing. US Mission India is currently under the leadership of constituent posts are headed by the following career diplomats:
The United States is determined to help the people of India. We will continue to stand together in our shared battle against COVID-19. https://t.co/Om74VC0Fyx
— Jake Sullivan (@JakeSullivan46) April 29, 2021
Coronavirus has crushed India’s health system. Patients are on their own. https://t.co/p5Ic6FRcjd
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 27, 2021
"The positivity rate hit a staggering 36 percent — meaning more than one out of three people tested were infected. A month ago, it was less than 3 percent."
This @gettleman dispatch from New Dehli is a must read. So raw, so real https://t.co/kvHJRaGfBv
& the photos laid me flat
— Elise Hu (@elisewho) April 28, 2021
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) April 27, 2021