Nowruz overshadowed by COVID-19 outbreak

Celebrations of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, came at a grim time this year, where another
two positive cases of COVID-19 registered in western Herat province, which increased the affected cases to 24 in the country.
On Friday, though, the arrival of Nowruz was overshadowed by the coronavirus. Government officials, acting to contain its spread, had ordered the day’s rituals canceled and asked the public to avoid crowded gatherings. The holy Shrine of Hazrat Ali in Mazar-e-Sharif city and the hillside of Kart-e-Sakhi in Kabul were all but deserted and the shrines surrounded by armed police wearing masks and avoiding entrance of people.
In the past week, 24 cases of the virus have been confirmed nationwide, all linked to Afghan refugees flooding back from next-door Iran, where COVID-19 has killed more than 1,400 people. No cases have been reported in Kabul, 400 miles from the border, but officials fear that the virus could soon reach the crowded capital of almost six million.
Meanwhile in a message to the nation on the eve of Nowruz, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the First Lady wished the nation a happy new solar year, saying Unity among the people was vital to peace as well as asked people to avoid public gatherings due to COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
To help prevent the COVID-19 outbreak, an extraordinary meeting led by the president decided to reduce government offices working hours from 8am to 1pm till end of Ramadan.
Despite of many concerns about political instability in the country, Afghans have now become concerned over the outbreak of coronavirus in the country. Since registration of the first cases of coronavirus in western Herat province, the government has adopted measures to contain further spread of the virus such as deploying medical teams at the country’s airports as well as in border areas, but in recent days the anxiety of people, the warnings of health officials and also the number of infected people have been on the rise.
With confirming at least 24 infected cases and dozens of suspicions, the government has suspended the opening of all educational institutions, private and service ones until 17th April 2020. Undoubtedly, the banning of the aforementioned gatherings and the Nowruz celebrations were the best preventive measure but there are still dozens of public gatherings every day across the country, and that are yet to be stopped.
In fighting COVID-19, everyone is equal. Everyone has the same responsibility and shares the same risk. COVID-19 is very contagious and capable of asymptomatic spread, so it’s even more important to mobilize all of society and get everyone involved in the process.
The successful implementation of prevention and control measures in China can be an example for other parts of the world to follow. Again, this is not government to tackle all challenges, but the key to success is to make everyone responsible, get every unit involved and hold officials accountable. We also need to change how we have been living and be responsive to new challenges.
During an epidemic, it’s advisable to avoid large gatherings and multiple person-to-person contacts. China might have lost billions of dollars by essentially stopping all business, but at the end, this will have been a wise decision and correct action that we need to follow suit.

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