KABUL: Afghanistan on Saturday announced the closure of all educational institutions to stem the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s health and education ministries announced that the ongoing winter holidays would be extended for one more month until April 21 to contain the outbreak.
The Ministry of Public Health on Sunday confirmed five new positive cases of coronavirus in Afghanistan. Four new cases reported in Herat and 1 in Daikundi. According to Wahidullah Mayar, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, “the total positive cases in Afghanistan is now 16.”
Meanwhile, the US soldiers returning from Afghanistan have been quarantined amid the coronavirus outbreak. On Saturday, 300 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division returned to Fort Bragg after a nine-month deployment, the AP reported. Afghanistan reported its first case of COVID-19 in late February, shortly after Iran — which shares its western border — confirmed its cases. The virus thought to have originated in Wuhan, China last December has spread to 129 countries and territories. The global death toll from the virus has crossed 5,300 with more than 142,000 cases confirmed worldwide, according World Health Organization.
President Ghani’s senior advisor, Vahid Omar, said in a tweet that all private and government schools and universities will be shut for a month. He also said that the New Year festival has been cancelled in Balkh province too.
This is as Afghanistan’s National Olympic Committee has cancelled all sport events countrywide over the pandemic fears. Although no positive virus had been detected among the sports community, the decision has been made to protect sportsmen.
The decision came as a Buzkashi match was underway in Kabul’s Chaman-e-Huzuri playground. Public health officials had criticized the match and asked officials concerned to cancel it.
A 100-bed special hospital opened on Saturday in Herat to respond to coronavirus patients. The hospital capacity will be doubled, according to provincial public health director, Abdul Hakim Tamanna. The six patients who tested positive for coronavirus and others suspected people are being moved to the hospital for treatment.
This is as people are grappling with immense fears over the outbreak. But local authorities have shrugged off the fears, saying the provincial hospital will be put to use if the disease spreads.
Amid concerns spreading in Afghanistan, China has pledged to help the country in testing and treating coronavirus patients. The Afghan ambassador to China, Javed Qaim, said they have submitted a list of the required medical tools to China. “China has promised to share its experience with us in the area of virus testing,” he said. Qaim added since no special vaccine had been found so far to control the virus, China could not extend significant assistance to Afghanistan. The diplomat urged the Afghan government to shut schools, universities and public places to control the spread of the virus.