Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
President Ashraf Ghani had a phone conversation about COVID-19 with Tedros Adhanom, director-general of the WHO on Wednesday.
The Presidential Palace in a statement said that President Ghani shared Afghanistan’s draft plan to fight the coronavirus.
In the meantime , the director-general of the WHO Adhanom pledged cooperation to implement the plan, the statement added.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has announced that at least 41 new cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in Herat laboratories.
The spokesman of MoPH, Wahidullah Mayar stated that around 137 Cases were tested on Wednesday that 41 of them recorded positive.
According to Mayar, the 41 confirmed cases include 17 women and 24 men who have no experience of travelling to Iran.
This comes as the total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Afghanistan reaches to 237.
President Ashraf Ghani has met with the members of the emergency task force to fight the spread of COVID-19, the Presidential Palace said.
According to the Arg, both sides discussed efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups including the poor, internally displaced persons and daily wagers, who will be affected during the lockdown period.
“President Ghani instructed the committee to develop a comprehensive plan for providing vulnerable people with wheat,” Arg said.
It added that the process will be led by First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh.
Afghanistan has been hit by a spike in prices of essential goods including food and medicines, as shortages and panic buying increase in the face of a rising coronavirus threat, residents and retailers said.
As per Reuters report, Coronavirus cases have shot up in Afghanistan in the last few days, approaching 200, but with limited ability to test, health officials fear the situation is more serious than it seems and could worsen in coming days.
Mustafa, a Kabul shopkeeper, said higher prices at wholesale markets had forced him to put up retail prices for items such as onions and potatoes, which had nearly doubled.
“If this continues, not only will prices triple but it will be impossible to find these items in the market,” he said.
The government ordered a lockdown in Kabul over the weekend, adding to the unease of residents.
“Whenever my family gets an opportunity to go out in the lockdown we grab food in fear we may not be able to find things tomorrow,” Kabul resident Ahmad Farhad, 25, told Reuters.
The coronavirus fears have pushed up demand in all major cities, a member of Afghanistan’s chamber of industries and mines, Abul Basir Reshtia, said.
More than 130,000 Afghans have fled the coronavirus outbreak convulsing Iran to return home to Afghanistan amid fears they are bringing new infections with them to the conflict-ridden and impoverished country.
The huge spike in Afghans crossing the porous border from Iran, in one of the biggest cross-border movements of the pandemic, has led to mounting fears in the humanitarian community over the potential impact of new infections carried from Iran, one of the countries worst affected by the virus.
With the Afghan ministry of health warning that some 16 million people could become infected and tens of thousands could die, experts say the wave of returning labourers and refugees, who are then dispersing throughout the country, is threatening an already complex health and security situation.
According to a joint situation report from the World Health Organization and the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs at the weekend, while only 174 Afghans are confirmed to have the virus, the real number may be much higher because of limited ability to test and trace contacts.
Afghanistan will release some Taliban prisoners this week as part of confidence building measure crucial for the success of the peace deal signed between America and the Taliban to end nearly two decades of war, officials said on Wednesday.
A three-member Taliban team arrived in Kabul on Tuesday to begin a prisoner exchange process and met with Afghan officials despite a nationwide lockdown implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A Taliban spokesman said on Wednesday that at least 100 captured Taliban fighters would be freed soon, the first step to in ultimate exchange of 6,000 prisoners held by the Afghan government and the insurgent group.
“One hundred prisoners will be released in first batch, then both sides will assess whether releasing 100 per day is working out well or not,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group.
The U.N. Security Council is urging Afghanistan’s warring parties to heed the U.N. secretary-general’s call for an immediate cease-fire to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the country.
The council issued a statement Tuesday after a closed briefing by U.N. deputy special representative Ingrid Hayden who said the country “appears to be reaching a defining moment” — whether its feuding leaders can join together “to engage in meaningful talks with the Taliban to achieve a sustainable peace.”
“The choice is made stark by the all-encompassing threat of COVID-19, which poses grave dangers to the health of Afghanistan’s population and, potentially, to the stability of its institutions,” she said in remarks sent to U.N. correspondents.
A three-member team of the Afghan consulate, Peshawar, visited Tableeghi Markaz of Landi Kotal and met the Afghan nationals quarantined there by the local administration.
The Afghan consulate team comprising Asad Ullah Farooqi of cultural department, Shahid protocol officer and Hamidullah representative of refugee department paid visit to the Markez and met with Afghan more than 200 Afghan citizens struck in Landi Kotal due to suspension of Pak-Afghan sharing border, Torkham of threat of COVID 19.
One of the Afghan officials whole reluctant to talk to media said that the purpose of their trip was to get inform of the condition of their countrymen who trapped at border.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has announced that the number of recovered coronavirus patients reached to 10 in the country.
The spokesman of MoPH, Wahidullah Mayar in a press conference said that of the 2080 suspected cases of coronavirus in the laboratories, 196 cases were reported positive.
According to Mayar, at least 22 positive cases of coronavirus were recorded during the past 24 hours; 12 cases in Herat, 6 in Kabul, and one in each provinces of Farah, Ghazni, Paktika and Baghlan.
He noted that five patients have recently recovered that three of them are in Herat, one in Kandahar and one other in Nimroz province.
Mayar added that 25 thousand coronavirus test kits were arrived in Kabul from the UAE.
The Ministry of Public Health one again called on people to stay at home and consider the messages of the Ministry.
Afghan authorities have quarantined 16 health workers, including six doctors, officials said, as Afghans fleeing hard-hit Iran have helped spread the coronavirus in the western border province of Herat.
Afghanistan, already battling a shortage of food and medicines amid a Taliban insurgency, has recorded 170 cases of the coronavirus, of which 131 were identified in Herat, a bustling province that shares a porous border with Iran, the worst-affected country in the Middle East.
“Six doctors, nine health workers and a helper have been infected with coronavirus in the past one week,” said Khalid Ahadi, of the health department of Herat, adding that they were infected while treating returnees from Iran.
“We have few doctors and we can’t afford to lose them.”
Fears of contracting the virus in Iran have led to a record number of Afghan returnees in recent weeks, a daily average of more than 9,000, according to the International Organization of Migration.
Herat is one of more successful commercial centres in the landlocked country, and does bustling trade with Iran in handicrafts and commodities.
UK Chargé d’Affaires to the UN, Jonathan Allen, underlines UK support for Afghanistan in response to COVID-19 and urges progress towards a peace process.
UK Chargé d’Affaires Jonathan Allen spoke at a Meeting of Members of the UN Security Council to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan, including the coronavirus pandemic and the need for both Afghan political unity and Taliban engagement with peace talks.
“The UK is deeply concerned about the potential impact of the global pandemic on Afghanistan and we are looking at options for scaling up our humanitarian support,” Allen added.
The Pakistani government has agreed to allow Afghan traders to import only food and medicines across the border.
In an interview with ToloNews, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Mohammad Atif Mashal, said Afghan traders can only import food and medicine items from Pakistan.
This comes as Pakistan has extended border closure for another two weeks to prevent spread of COVID-19.
The border closure was initially until March 16 but is extended until April 9.