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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Afghanistan

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Afghanistan
Afghanistan 2020 COVID-19 Map (Allio-19).png
Map of provinces with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan as of 29 March 2020
  Confirmed cases reported
  Suspected cases reported
DiseaseCOVID-19
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationAfghanistan
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseHerat
Arrival date24 February 2020
(1 month, 1 week and 2 days)
Confirmed cases239
Recovered10
Deaths
4
Official website
moph.gov.af/dr/شیوع-ویروس-کرونا

The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Afghanistan when its first case, in Herat, was confirmed on 24 February 2020.[1] As of 1 April 2020, there have been 239 positive cases, with five recoveries and four deaths in the country.

Timeline

COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases
Date
# of cases
# of deaths
2020-02-24
1(+1)
1(=)
2020-03-07
4(+300%)
4(=)
2020-03-10
7(+75%)
7(=)
2020-03-14
11(+57%)
2020-03-15
16(+45%)
2020-03-16
21(+31%)
2020-03-17
22(+5%)
22(=)
2020-03-22
40(+82%) 1(+1)
2020-03-23
42(+5%) 1(=)
2020-03-24
74(+32%) 1(=)
2020-03-25
84(+14%) 2(+1)
2020-03-26
94(+12%) 4(+2)
2020-03-27
110(+17%) 4(=)
2020-03-28
110(=) 4(=)
2020-03-29
120(+9%) 4(=)
2020-03-30
145(+21%) 4(=)
2020-03-31
196(+35%) 4(=)
2020-04-01
239(+22%) 4(=)
Cases: The number of non-repatriated cases reported by the Government
Sources: Various news sources and state health department websites. See Timeline Table and Timeline narrative for sources.

February 2020

On 23 February, at least three citizens of Herat who had recently returned from Qom, Iran were suspected of COVID-19 infection. Blood samples were sent to Kabul for further testing.[2]

On 24 February, Afghanistan confirmed the first COVID-19 case involving one of the three people from Herat, a 35-year-old man, who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.[3]

March 2020

1 to 14 March – Early spread

On 7 March, three new cases were confirmed in Herat Province.[4] The new total of positive cases in Afghanistan had risen to 4.

On 10 March, the first case was reported outside of Herat province, in Samangan Province, meaning that there was a total of five cases in Afghanistan. The patient had also returned from travels in Iran.[5] This later rose to seven in the evening, as the Ministry of Public Health announced one new case in both Herat and Samangan provinces.[6]

On 14 March, the tenth positive case was confirmed. The Ministry of Public Health announced that Balkh Province and Kapisa Province had their first cases. Samangan also had their third positive case of coronavirus infection.[7] The 23-year-old patient in Dawlatabad District, in northern Balkh, fled Bo Ali Sina Hospital after testing positive.[8]

The eleventh case was also announced that day, as Abdul Qayum Rahimi, the governor of Herat, reported a new positive case of the coronavirus in the province. The total cases in Herat rose to six.[8] On 14 March, the first recorded recovery from the coronavirus in Afghanistan was a patient in Herat. Wahid Ahmad, the recovered patient (who was also the first positive case) had contracted COVID-19 from Qom and was hospitalized for two weeks. The first recovered COVID-19 patient in Afghanistan was announced to be in quarantine at home.[9] The Ministry of Health later revealed on 20 March that three tests he had taken were negative and that he was allowed to end quarantine.[10][11]

15 to 24 March – First death

Five new cases were reported on 15 March, which included the first case in Daykundi Province.[12]

On 16 March, five new positive cases were identified, meaning that the total number of cases rose to 21.[13] 38 patients, including one positive patient, escaped from quarantine in Herat Province by beating up workers in the hospital and breaking the windows with the help of relatives. All 38 patients were quarantined after returning from Iran.[14] Also on that day, the Taliban announced that they had arrested the runaway patient from Dawlatabad District, Balkh Province, and had handed him back to health authorities.[15]

On 17 March, there were 22 total cases confirmed.[16] Also on that day, 7 patients that escaped from Herat Hospital were returned.[17] By 19 March, two new positive cases were confirmed for the first time in Badghis and Logar provinces.[18]

On 22 March, 10 new cases were reported out of 97 tests, resulting in a total of 34 positive cases. New cases were reported in Ghazni, Kandahar and Zabul provinces. The two new cases in Kabul Province were both foreign diplomats.[19] The first possible fatality of COVID-19 in Afghanistan was also announced on 22 March. The male patient was a new suspected case who displayed symptoms. The ministry said that the man visited a hospital in Herat because he was suffering from heart disease, but after showing signs of COVID-19 he was taken to the coronavirus treatment center in the province. An autopsy will determine whether the Herat man had contracted the coronavirus, or had died of heart disease.[20]

On 22 March, Khalilullah Hekmati, head of Balkh's public health directorate, announced the first official death of an Afghan due to COVID-19. The man died in Chimtal District, in Balkh Province. The test was confirmed positive on 22 March, but the 40-year-old patient had died three days before.[21][22] By the end of the day, the number of cases increased to 40, after 6 new cases were reported. These included the first two cases in Farah Province and the first case in Ghor Province. Three new cases were also reported in Herat. 18 new cases in one day marked the biggest increase of positive cases in a single day.[23][24] On 23 March, two new cases were reported in the provinces of Logar and Samangan.[25] On 24 March, 32 new cases were reported, making the total number of cases 74.[26] All of the new cases were reported in Herat.[27]

25 to 31 March – Outbreak

On 25 March, 5 new positive cases were reported, as well as the second death in the country. The total climbed up to 79.[28] The figure later rose to 84 positive cases. The patient who died was a 45-year-old woman in Herat Province. The first case was also announced in Nimruz Province, where the patient had recently traveled to Iran. The second recovery was also reported.[29][30]

On 26 March, two deaths were announced. The first patient was a 55-year-old who had died at Herat Hospital. The second death in the evening was confirmed to be a man who had returned to Herat from London, United Kingdom. The total death toll increased to 4.[31] Ten new positive cases were also reported. 8 were located in Herat Province, whilst the two other cases were from Nimruz Province.[32]

On 27 March, 16 new cases were announced by the Ministry of Health. This included 11 new cases in Herat Province, three in Farah Province and one in Ghor Province. The total number of cases reached 110. The third recovery in the country was also reported.[33] By 29 March, there was a total of 120 positive cases.[34] On 30 March, 25 new cases were announced, meaning that the total number of cases increased to 145. The first cases were recorded in Badakhshan, Nangarhar, Paktia and Sar-e Pol provinces. Two new recoveries were also reported.[35] On 31 March, the Ministry of Health reported four new cases from 60 tests. Two of the cases were reported in Kandahar, while one new case each was recorded in Daykundi and Nimruz provinces.[36] 22 other positive cases were later announced as positive with twelve in Herat, six in Kabul, and one new case each in Baghlan (the first in the province), Ghazni and Paktia provinces. By the end of March, the number of positive cases had reached 196.[37]

April 2020

On 1 April, 43 new cases were announced, including 16 doctors and nurses in Herat and two further cases in the capital, Kabul. The total number of coronavirus cases rose to 239. Health officials reported that over 100 staff members at hospitals in Herat Province are suspected cases.[38][39]

Other cases

Pakistan identified two positive cases at the Torkham border, on 12 March. It was reported that one Afghan citizen with coronavirus was returned from Torkham to Afghanistan. The second case at the border was a Pakistani embassy employee from Kabul.[40] On 15 March, Pakistan deported 10 Afghans at Torkham after they developed flu-like symptoms.[41]

On 24 March, the Resolute Support Mission reported that 4 coalition service members had tested positive.[42]

Also on 24 March, a 51-year-old Afghan national in Medina, Saudi Arabia was announced as the first casualty from the coronavirus in that country. The Afghan had died on 23 March.[43][44]

Prevention measures

Testing

Up until 10 March, the Afghan government had spent $15 million in response to the outbreak and a total of 142 suspected cases had been tested, with only five being positive for COVID-19.[5] Tests were sent to the Netherlands to ensure testing accuracy. Isolation centers were also set up across the country.[45] Up until 14 March, the Afghan government had spent $25 million to tackle the outbreak, which included $7 million of aid packages. Beijing (China) is also giving aid to Afghanistan and a total of 50,000 testing kits had been supplied by the Afghan government. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and World Health Organization are also providing help.[46] Also by that day, the Ministry of Public Health had tested 181 suspected cases. The samples of the suspected cases were from Herat, Samangan, Kapisa, Balkh, Daykundi, Parwan and Paktia provinces.[7][8]

By 18 March, the Ministry of Public Health had registered at least 340 suspected cases of coronavirus in 23 provinces of the country since the start of the outbreak.[47] On 20 March, the Ministry of Public Health said that no private labs or hospitals are allowed to undertake the checking of suspected or positive patients. The Ministry of Public Health announced that they intended to increase the capacity of laboratories for testing coronavirus samples in Herat and Balkh provinces. it was announced that a new laboratory in Herat is under construction, after the only laboratory in the country was in Kabul, meaning that it took longer to diagnose people who took tests.[48]

The Health Ministry later restricted the policy on testing, testing only people with a high fever. It was reported that returnees from Iran had visited the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, which treats COVID-19 patients in Kabul, but were not tested. By 27 March, only 600 tests on returnees from Iran had been carried out.[49] The Ministry reported that in total, over 1000 tests had been carried out by 28 March.[50][51]

On 30 March, the Minister of Public Health, Ferozuddin Feroz, announced the plan to increase the capacity of health facilities in Afghanistan to 1000 tests a day by the end of the week. A center previously used to treat animals is operating as a testing facility, performing around 100 tests in 24 hours. By the end of March 2020, Afghanistan's COVID-19 testing centers had the capacity of 600 tests a day. 400 of them were in Kabul, 100 in Herat and 100 in Nangarhar.[52]

Lockdown measures

On 14 March, President Ashraf Ghani, told the public to avoid large public gatherings and to pay attention to hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease.[8] On 18 March, the Ministry of Interior Affairs banned all large gatherings, including the closure of venues that attract large crowds such as entertainment places, sports grounds, swimming pools, fitness clubs and wedding halls.

On 22 March, Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz urged the government to order the lockdown of the city of Herat at a press conference in Kabul.[19] Members of the Wolesi Jirga of Afghanistan's parliament decided to hold a general session once a week to avoid the spread of COVID-19.[53] The spokesperson of the Health Ministry, Wahidullah Mayar, announced that 449 suspected cases had been tested across 28 provinces up until 22 March. Most suspected cases were from Herat and Kabul.[54]

On 24 March, in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, the local authorities placed strict measures in the provincial capital, limiting the movement of citizens until 1 April.[55][56] On 25 March, the Afghan Government began to limit the movement of residents in Farah, Herat and Nimruz provinces, after Herat emerged as a major source of internal transmissions in Afghanistan. In Herat, praying in mosques was suspended to prevent any possible spread of the virus. Residents of Farah and Zaranj could only go out for necessary activities.[57][58][59]

On 26 March, the government announced the release of 10,000 prisoners that were aged over 55 to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the country. This also consisted of mainly women, youths and the critically ill.[60] Based on President Ashraf Ghani's decree, the prisoners would be released over the 10 following days. The release of prisoners did not include members of Islamist militant groups.[61][62] Also on that day, Afghan authorities extended the lockdown to Kabul, Kandahar, and Logar provinces.[63] Also on 26 March, the mayor of Mazar-i-Sharif said that in addition to closing restaurants in the city, disinfection of public places is also taking place.[64]

On 27 March, it was announced that the Afghan cabinet had decided that the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, would undergo lockdown from 28 March for three weeks. The lockdown will ensure that residents stay at home, avoiding all non-essential travel and gatherings. Residents would also need to provide valid reasons if they decide to leave their homes. All restaurants, hotels, sauna, cafes, public bathing centers, shrines, gyms, parks and other stores will remain closed for 3 weeks, except for grocery stores and banks.[65] It was also announced that all sport venues, shrines and other public gathering places would remain closed for the duration of lockdown in Kabul.[66] Public transport carrying more than 5 passengers will also be banned. Large educational institutes and wedding halls will be transformed into isolation centers to quarantine those who return from Iran for two weeks. A total of 70 military teams will patrol Kabul to identify people with symptoms.[67]

Mask production

On 26 February, a mask-production plant in Herat Province (the epicenter of the outbreak in Afghanistan) opened. The plant produces over 60,000 masks on a daily basis. The Ministry of Public Health announced that this would be important in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and would also help decrease the surge in prices for surgical masks.[68]

Public awareness and funding

On 21 March, Afghanistan contributed $1 million to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) emergency fund to help fight COVID-19.[69]

On 22 March, doctors at Blossom Hospital in Kabul launched a public awareness campaign to help the public understand how to prevent the spread of the virus. This included distributing over 5000 surgical masks to the public.[47]

On 23 March, Cordaid announced that they would distribute soap in communities, handle waste management and supply thermometers to reduce the risk of spread in Afghanistan. They also held community awareness sessions and helped to improve the referral systems of patients to health centers that have a treatment ward for COVID-19.[70]

Taliban's cooperation

On 16 March, the Taliban announced that in Balkh Province, they arrested the runaway patient who tested positive for coronavirus and handed him back to health authorities. The Taliban also spread awareness of the coronavirus in insurgent-controlled areas of Afghanistan and supported governmental health workers. They also asked for Afghan returnees from Iran to be tested for COVID-19.[13] On 29 March, the Taliban launched a COVID-19 public awareness campaign in Logar Province.[71]

Impacts

The annual Nowruz festival in Mazar-i-Sharif and across the whole of Afghanistan was not held in 2020, in order to prevent the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic.[72][40][73] The Nowruz celebrations in Balkh were canceled after the first case was reported on 14 March.[8] People were also not allowed to enter the Shrine of Hazrat Ali in Mazar-i-Sharif.[74]

The Afghanistan National Olympic Committee (ANOC) announced that all sport events were canceled after 14 March, including a Buzkashi league tournament that was being held in Kabul.[7] It was announced on 14 March, that all educational institutes in the country would not open until 21 April.[75] On 21 March, wedding halls and hammams were closed and governmental departments with large numbers of employees stopped working.[48]

During March 2020, 30,000 Afghan immigrants were reported to have returned from Iran, via Islam Qala port, after the outbreak in the country. This marked the highest rate of returning immigrants from Iran in over a decade.[76][77]

Effects on travel

Travel restrictions

After the three suspected cases in Herat, Afghanistan later temporarily closed its border with Iran on 23 February 2020.[78] In March 2020, the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority restricted most international flights by Afghan airlines due to the global pandemic. Ariana Afghan Airlines and Kam Air suspended all flights, except from flights to Dubai and Pakistan.[79]

Pakistan's response

In response to Afghanistan's and Iran's cases, Pakistan closed its border at Chaman with Afghanistan for at least three weeks, starting on 2 March, as both countries confirmed rising number of cases over the weeks.[80][81][82] On 21 March, Pakistan reopened its border with Afghanistan.[83]

On 13 March, all land borders with Pakistan were closed.[84] It was also announced that Pakistan would completely seal its land border with Afghanistan from 16 March for at least two weeks.[85]

Statistics

Overview

The table below shows the confirmed COVID-19 cases in each Province of Afghanistan. As of 1 April 2020, 19 provinces have at least one positive case of COVID-19.

Map of provinces with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan by 29 March 2020.
  Confirmed cases reported
  Suspected cases reported
COVID-19 in Afghanistan by Province as of 1 April 2020[86]
Province
Cases Deaths Recoveries
Badakhshan Province 1 0 0
Badghis Province 1 0 0
Baghlan Province 1 0 0
Balkh Province 3 1 0
Daykundi Province 2 0 0
Farah Province 6 0 0
Ghazni Province 2 0 0
Ghor Province 2 0 0
Herat Province 184 3 1
Kabul Province 18[a] 0 0
Kandahar Province 3 0 0
Kapisa Province 1 0 0
Logar Province 3 0 0
Nangarhar Province 1 0 0
Nimruz Province 5 0 0
Paktia Province 1 0 0
Samangan Province 4 0 0
Sar-e Pol Province 1 0 0
Zabul Province 2 0 0
Total (19 Provinces) 196 4 10[b]

Graphs

Notes

  1. ^ Including 4 foreign troops.
  2. ^ The locations of the 2nd-10th recoveries have not been given.[87]

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