Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
A Scottish soldier has told BBC how he has drawn from his experience of being in war zones in Afghanistan to get through the coronavirus lockdown.
Corporal Alan Fergusson said it was not alien for him to live in a small space without being allowed to leave and said he was used to being in “unpleasant situations”.
The 38-year-old from 2 SCOTS said people should not be scared of coronavirus but instead respect it.
He said: “You can’t live in fear. In this lockdown people need to take every day as it comes and realise there is an end point.
“This lockdown will not last forever so people need to pick something they plan to do at the end and focus on that to get them through.
“I’m focusing on our next deployment to Afghanistan in October as mine.
“You also have to focus on the little victories you have each day and find a hobby you like doing until the lockdown is lifted.
“I had a terrifying job in Afghanistan and how I made it through each day was thinking each night when I was in bed that nobody had died or been hurt so it had been a good day. I took it one day at a time.”
When Corporal Fergusson is in a war zone such as Afghanistan he only has a house with a small garden to live in for two months with all the other soldiers.
He said: “The lockdown is comparable to operations when we’re in Afghanistan because there are 40 soldiers in a little compound 100m sq and we can’t leave or we will be shot.
“Being in lockdown therefore is not alien to the guys who have been on operations and in Iraq the platoon houses are even smaller.
“So being in a small space is not alien to us.
“In this lockdown it is hard to see an end point because of the fog of covid but it is there and it will end.”
Corporal Fergusson, who has been a Royal Army Medical Corp combat medical technician attached to the Second Battalion Royal regiment of Scotland for 10 years, lives in Glencorse Army Barracks in Penicuik in Midlothian.
In the past 24 hours, 782 new Coronavirus cases have been reported – the highest since the outbreak began. Wahid Majrooh, Deputy Minister of Public Health, said the total number of infected people is almost at 9,998 with 216 dead and 1,000 recovered.
Officials at the Ministry of Health (MoPH) said Kabul with 377 new cases, has the highest number of infected people in the country, followed by Herat with 150 cases. The other provinces don’t fare any better with 49 new cases registered in Balkh, 47 in Ghazni, 32 in Nangarhar, 28 in Paktia, 21 in Samangan and 12 in each of the provinces of Paktika, Baghlan and Logar.
Wahid Majrooh said the virus outbreak would continue to spread unchecked if the people do not comply with the quarantine, especially during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.
“We strongly warn citizens that if they do not comply with quarantine, do not stay in their homes and do not follow the correct recommendations, both they and all members of their families will be infected with the virus,” he said.
Deputy Health Minister Waheed Majroh warned Afghan citizens of an imminent healthcare catastrophe if they continued to violate quarantine measures during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday. “The number of [coronavirus] cases is so high that all ICUs [intensive care units] in public hospitals are full,” said Majroh, asking citizens to stay at home after people were seen breaking the lockdown measures in Kabul, last week.
Afghanistan’s daily case count has been increasing at almost 500 cases a day. He said rampant lockdown violations were leading the country towards a disaster and appealed to the citizens to celebrate the holiday with only immediate family members while taking all preventative measures.
This news comes as Kabul extended restrictions and introduced new quarantine methods during and after the Eid holiday.
A special KAM Air flight with 143 Afghan nationals departed from the western India city of Pune on Friday. The passengers were people who had been stranded in India since the emergency government lockdown was announced in the country on March 25 to battle the spread of the Coronavirus. Lockdown measures had included closing all land and air travel.
The flight landed in Pune at noon and departed at 14:30 hours (local time). All passengers on board were screened and found negative for COVID-19. They included people living in the west and south India in Pune, Hyderabad, Karnataka and Gujarat.
Experts in Uzbekistan are on high alert for potential Afghan sources of COVID-19. Bakhtiyor Ergashev, director of the Ma’no Center of Research Initiatives, reports KazTAG, “The neighbouring states… to some extent control COVID-19… There is no understanding how it is going to be done in Afghanistan.”
Addressing an international conference about Uzbekistan’s COVID-19 response, Ergashev said that of all of their neighbouring states – including Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – Afghanistan has the dual problem of government incompetency and the threat of the Taliban hampering quarantine efforts. “In the time of pandemic Ghani and Abdullah cannot find an agreement and their extent of responsibility. In addition, Taliban has activated. They do not understand what is quarantine and self-isolation is.”
Afghanistan has 9,216 Coronavirus positive cases, the most among all of Uzbekistan’s neighbours.
Idrees Swayash has cycled to more than 120 villages across rural Afghanistan telling people about the Coronavirus. “When coronavirus came to Afghanistan, I went to some villages and saw that people were not aware of it at all,” he told AFP.
“I decided to use my bicycle… to launch a door-to-door awareness campaign,” said the 27-year-old resident of Laghman province. Swayash has covered more than 1,000 kilometres on his blue bike. He keeps a box full of booklets advising personal protection such as wearing masks and washing hands frequently and distributes it to the villagers.
On reaching a village, Swayash who is in a protective suit, wearing mask and gloves, often stops at an intersection or the village square to demonstrate hand washing techniques. He tells the residents about the pandemic and how to maintain social distancing in public spaces.
In Nangarhar province, he came across villages that had not heard of Coronavirus yet. “We were greeting, we were hugging, we were sitting together,” a local told AFP, while he skimmed Swayash’s booklet.
The local governments support his efforts as he is trying to prevent the spread of a disease which has already infected more than 9,200 people in Afghanistan.