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Editorial: Coronavirus spreading panic

Afghanistan already has a host of viruses to battle against – ranging from the Polio to the Congo virus – and its deficient and scanty healthcare system cannot afford new infections at a time when a new strain of coronavirus is making headlines and spreading panic around the world. According to some reports, the virus has killed 56 people within a span of a few weeks. The first case was recorded in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan in China and since then nearly 2,000 cases have been detected in the country. Health authorities around the world are taking action to prevent a global epidemic as the new virus continues to spread. Cases are reported in Australia, France, the United States and seven Asian countries besides China, with four suspected cases surfacing in neighboring Pakistan, something that shows the virus is indeed spreading far and wide.

Unfortunately, there are no vaccines or antibiotics available for battling this virus and containing its transmission, therefore fast diagnosis and treatment in quarantine are the only solutions. The contagious virus attacks the respiratory system and includes symptoms of the common cold in its early stages, which can then develop into bronchitis and pneumonia, or even lead to kidney failure. The elderly, children and those with weak immune systems are particularly vulnerable to its effects.

Amid this alarm, like other countries around the world, Afghanistan too has decided to screen passengers arriving from China. However, it just a decision and not an action so far that would prove too little too late as neighboring Pakistan has already been hit. The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) assured that coronavirus disease has not reached Afghanistan so far but preventive measures have been taken for its possible outbreak. It’s been weeks since the virus is taking its toll on victims and the ministry only recently decides to task a technical team in the country’s airports to examine passengers entering Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s ambassador to China says he has been in contact with Afghan students in Wuhan state of the country – where the virus first surfaced – to assist them in avoiding the risk of coronavirus. Despite these actions, they aren’t adequate and are lagging behind. Afghanistan should be swift in taking necessary precautions and relatively intense than other countries in this regard. It is a matter of grave concern for our country because we aren’t that much strongly equipped like other countries, such as China, to curtail its spread. And the virus transfer to Afghanistan would be easy since the two countries have big trade deals and it’s only a matter of time that we witness a case here. Therefore, the government should be on high alert and airports, in particular, must remain vigilant to screen every arriving passenger, not necessarily from just China but every suspected country – even if it results in inconvenience. The MoH should prepare public service announcements to spread public awareness for the prevention of coronavirus disease through media. As the virus cannot be controlled as of yet, the World Health Organization (WHO) should also help Afghanistan in precautionary measures and thus help control the spread of the virus here.

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