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Editorial: Coronavirus beatable

China has been a paragon of a systematic fight against spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia since its outbreak. China adopted draconian response measures; cities including the epicenter of the disease, Wuhan, were locked down during the epidemic in mainland China. That, intuitively, set a pattern for the rest of the world amid the increasing global spread of the disease. Italy and other countries with dangerous infection levels are now drawing lessons from China’s response experience. Now, half of Italy’s population is in lockdown with high hopes to contain the virus. It was only a matter of time before Afghanistan joined the ranks of countries hit by the coronavirus. A total of seven positive cases have now been recorded and confirmed by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). The outbreak of the virus in Afghanistan is said to have stemmed from neighboring Iran because it has only surfaced in those Afghans who had recently returned from Qom city. But the possibility of it spreading from the infected ones to others cannot be completely ruled out yet. Now that the highly infectious virus has a footprint in the country, the government must double its efforts to contain its spread — a considerable challenge indeed – even if they cause disruption such as that of imposing travel restrictions. Also coordinate with Chinese health officials in a bid to effectively fight the virus. The government needs to make a quick choice in this dilemma of either taking measures and putting in place restrictions – something that will undoubtedly hamper activities – or accepting the loss of many Afghans to this deadly virus. However, if this virus is to be contained and coped with, joint cooperation and mobilization of all layers of the public health system are vital and Afghan authorities need to learn from China’s experience. The national health authorities must be vigilant and the idea of shutting off the border with Iran (where the number of cases is hovering in hundreds now with dozens of deaths) should be revisited. Moreover, quarantine facilities are needed in all provinces with special instructions to healthcare staff on how to manage COVID-19 patients. At present, the only facility to diagnose the virus is in Kabul and blood samples are brought to the capital, something that takes a lot of time but is clearly not enough to deal with the outbreak. The health authorities downplay that the situation does not call for panic but for a country like Afghanistan, where there is a lack of facilities and resources unlike China – which is beyond compare when it comes to Afghanistan – the challenge is enormous. Whether things are under control can only be assessed in the days to come, as Afghanistan grapples with the virus while having a dilapidated healthcare system. The authorities shouldn’t take it lightly and the government cannot afford to slacken its efforts. Given the fact that finding a solution or creating vaccines would take times, the only way to go about dealing with the status quo is employing preventive measures. This means that all levels of the healthcare system will have to work in tandem to prevent the spread of the virus and beside China the international community and aid organizations should also assist Afghanistan in every manner they can. Anything less could be a recipe for disaster because war-torn Afghanistan, already struggling with a myriad of health challenges, such as polio, is not capable of tackling crises of such magnitude. China has already made progress in the fight against the virus and Afghanistan need to learn and call upon Beijing to immediately help and provide medical facilities to prevent the spread of the virus. Never ever to forget that this virus is beatable, and China did it so appropriately.

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