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Coronavirus spurs cancellation of Nowruz festival in Balkh

AT News

KABUL: Nowruz is an ancient tradition in Afghanistan which is celebrated at the start of the lunar New Year in a special festivity in Balkh –as the birthplace of this custom – by thousands of Afghans with pomp and gaiety. Afghans all across the world celebrate Nowruz too.

But this year the celebrations will be cancelled as public events across Afghanistan have been cancelled due to coronavirus fears. Local culture officials said cancellation came after all preparations were made for the celebration in Balkh.

So far, 21 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Afghanistan, with one case in Balkh province. Director of culture department, Ata Mohammad Saho, said on Monday that confirmed cases of coronavirus infections are on the rise in Afghanistan and the government has advised against huge events to contain the virus spread.

“People should avoid group meetings, congested places and cultural gatherings and comply by health warnings,” said Amin Shirpoor, head of a special coronavirus facility. He advised against Nowruz celebrations, warning that an infected patient can transfer the virus to 20 people. “Social distancing should be taken serious,” he warned.

This is as Mazar-e-Sharif city, capital of Balkh, is teeming with guests from across the country to celebrate Nowruz in a few days, raising concerns. They are pleading for a space within the holy shrine of Imam Ali to be able to celebrate the New Year.

Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus outbreak had already spurred large-scale cancellations of sports and cultural events. Earlier, Afghanistan’s neighbors closed their borders with Afghanistan.

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