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COVID-19: Over 100,000 Afghans return from Iran

Afghan authorities fear situation would go out of control amid potential phase of local transmission of coronavirus

18.03.2020 - Update : 18.03.2020
COVID-19: Over 100,000 Afghans return from Iran

KABUL, Afghanistan

Since the outbreak of coronavirus in neighboring Iran, over 100,000 Afghans were deported or returned voluntarily to their war-ravaged country, the UN migration agency said on Wednesday.

In a fresh report, the International Organization of Migration noted that due to coronavirus transmission fears in Iran, spontaneous returns from Iran over the past week have reached new record weekly totals.

It said a total of 53,069 undocumented Afghans returned from Iran through the Milak (Nimroz) and Herat (Islam Qala) borders between March 8-14, representing a 171% increase.

It further said since Jan. 1 2020, the total number of undocumented returnees from Iran is 136,186 individuals -- including unaccompanied migrant children, single parent families, physically disabled person and elders.

Sharing concerns over the spillover of coronavirus from Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar told Anadolu Agency the situation has not reached to the level of epidemic in Afghanistan.

“So far, all suspected and positive cases of the coronavirus are traced back to Iran, we fear for the worst case scenario when it might enter second stage of local transmission, which would be beyond control,” Mayar said.

In a televised address to the nation, President Ashraf Ghani vowed on Tuesday to utilize all available resources to fight the pandemic.

With the fragile health system, 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 neighboring Iran announced its first case in February. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz confirmed the first case in Afghanistan on Feb. 24.

Till March 18, 2020, Afghanistan had 22 confirmed cases of the coronavirus pandemic.

Worldwide, out of over 200,000 confirmed cases, the death toll now exceeds 8,200, while more than 82,000 patients have recovered, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.

The World Health Organization has declared Europe the new epicenter of the virus, after first emerging in Wuhan, China last December.

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