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Coronavirus overshadows spring festival in Afghanistan

In his Nevruz message, President Ghani stresses unity, integration and reforms to reach peace

Shadi Khan Saif   | 20.03.2020
Coronavirus overshadows spring festival in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan 

In clear contrast to the usual hustle and bustle of spring festivals, Afghanistan on Friday marked Nevruz in calm amid fears of new coronavirus spreading globally.

The usual picnic resorts for families in the capital Kabul were clearly empty while the main attraction in north of the country, Mazar-e-Sharif, also presented deserted images with people adopting social distancing on government directives.

Nowruz marks New Year's Day in Afghanistan with the Solar Hijri calendar as their official calendar.

In his Nevruz message, President Ashraf Ghani stressed unity among Afghans and drastic reforms in the system of governance were pivotal for peace.

"More than ever before, Afghans are hopeful for peace, so more than ever before we must pay attention to unity and integration," he said.

This came as Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, strives to resolve the lingering electoral rift between President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and his former power-sharing Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, which lead to parallel oath taking ceremonies for the top position earlier this month.

In his Nevruz message, Khalilzad said: "The best gift Afghan leaders can give the country on this occasion is: 1. They reach an agreement on an inclusive government and end the political crisis; 2. They take the needed steps to take advantage of historic opportunity for peace; 3. They work together including the Taliban to contain and take care of the people from the scourge of the coronavirus."

As a war-ravaged country with a fragile health system, Afghanistan has so far confirmed 24 positive cases of coronavirus.

All confirmed cases have been linked to Iran, Dr. Abdul Hakeem, head of public health department in the western border province of Herat, told Anadolu Agency.

Afghanistan shares a 920-kilometer (572-mile) porous border with Iran which reported over 18,000 coronavirus cases so far, making it the fourth-most-affected country after China, South Korea and Italy.

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