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COVID-19: Landlocked Afghanistan confirms 5 new cases

Amid influx of thousands of returnees from Iran, fears mount about spread of novel coronavirus with fragile health system

Shadi Khan Saif  | 15.03.2020 - Update : 16.03.2020
COVID-19: Landlocked Afghanistan confirms 5 new cases

KABUL, Afghanistan 

Afghanistan on Sunday confirmed five additional cases of the novel coronavirus, all linked to neighboring Iran, taking the total to 16, according to the country's Health Ministry.

Four new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the Herat province -- sharing main border crossing with Iran -- and another one in the Daikundi province, Health Ministry spokesman Waheedullah Mayar told Anadolu Agency.

Out of 206 suspected cases tested in the central laboratories of the ministry, 16 of them were positive, while the remaining 190 negative, he said.

Also on Sunday, the Foreign Ministry announced the cancellation of all bilateral meetings and restricted issuing visas due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haroon Chakhansuri told the parliament that the UAE has assisted Afghanistan with 500 kits for fighting the spread of the virus and 500 more will be provided soon.

Afghanistan on Saturday announced the closure of all public and private education institutions over fears of the spread of the virus known as COVID-19.

The country’s health and education ministries announced that the ongoing winter holidays would be extended for one more month, until April 21, 2020, as a part of the measures against the disease.

Neighboring Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have closed their borders with Afghanistan.

Afghanistan woke up to face the grim challenge posed by COVID-19 at least three months after the virus was first detected in China in December 2019.

The eminent threat eventually forced Afghan authorities to act when Iran, the country’s western border announced its first case in February.

Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz confirmed the first case in Afghanistan on Feb. 24.

Coinciding with the surge in suspected and positive cases of coronavirus in Iran, the number of Afghans returning from there has also surged raising the fears in the country, which has a fragile health system.

According to the country’s Refugees and Repatriation Ministry, more than 50,000 Afghans returned from Iran in the past two weeks alone.

After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 141 countries and territories.

The global death toll is now nearly 5,700, with more than 152,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a global pandemic.

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