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Afghanistan shuts schools, bans public events amid coronavirus fears

AT News

KABUL: Afghanistan announced Saturday that new measures will be taken to protect citizens from coronavirus outbreak; schools will be closed for a month, New Year festival and all sports events will be cancelled to help contain the novel coronavirus that is spreading across the world.

The coronavirus fears have rippled across the globe as death toll from the pandemic surged past 5,000 on Saturday with nearly 150,000 infections. With 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus, Afghanistan has also announced new tough measures including shutting all schools and universities for a month and cancelling major national events. Schools usually open on 21st March in Afghanistan.

President Ghani’s senior advisor, Vahid Omar, said in a tweet that all private and government schools and universities will be shut for a month.

Governor’s deputy in Balkh has said the New Year festival has been cancelled in the province. Flights from Iran and India were also suspended on Saturday and all restaurant owners in Mazar-i-Sharif had been informed about precautionary measures. Bashir Tawhidi said that all universities and schools in Balkh had been already closed for 10 days, he said.

The Public Health Ministry’s spokesperson, Vahid Mayar, has said that all schools and universities will be closed until mid-April “based on a sage advice by the Higher Education Minister”.

Some 11 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed; 6 cases in Herat province, 3 in Samangan, 1 in Kapisa and 1 in Balkh province. This is as officials are trying to diagnose 52 other suspicious cases.

This is as Afghanistan’s National Olympic Committee has cancelled all sport events countrywide over the pandemic fears. Although no positive virus had been detected among the sports community, the decision has been made to protect sportsmen.

The decision came as a Buzkashi match was underway in Kabul’s Chaman-i-Huzuri playground. Public health officials had criticized the match and asked officials concerned to cancel it.

An exclusive hospital opens

A 100-bed special hospital opened on Saturday in Herat to respond to coronavirus patients. The hospital capacity will be doubled, according to provincial public health director, Abdul Hakim Tamanna. The six patients who tested positive for coronavirus and others suspected people are being moved to the hospital for treatment.

This is as people are grappling with immense fears over the outbreak. But local authorities have shrugged off the fears, saying the provincial hospital will be put to use if the disease spreads.

A global pandemic

This is as the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak pandemic. WHO Director has said the number of coronavirus cases outside China had increased 13 times in two weeks. China – where the virus likely originated – has seen a total of 80,754 confirmed cases and 3,136 deaths. But it recorded its lowest number of new infections, only 17, on Friday.

More than 10,000 cases have been reported in Italy, the worst-hit country outside of China. The UK has seen its biggest daily rise in cases, with 460 people now infected and eight dead. Over 1,000 cases have been confirmed in the US where a state of emergency has been declared.

China pledges aid

Amid concerns spreading in Afghanistan, China has pledged to help the country in testing and treating coronavirus patients. The Afghan ambassador to China, Javed Qaim, said they have submitted a list of the required medical tools to China. “China has promised to share its experience with us in the area of virus testing,” he said.

Qaim added since no special vaccine had been found so far to control the virus, China could not extend significant assistance to Afghanistan. The diplomat urged the Afghan government to shut schools, universities and public places to control the spread of the virus.

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