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Editorial: Countrywide lockdown required

Afghanistan so far has around 94 confirmed cases of the COVID-19, with four deaths, as the virus is spreading from thousands crossing the border each day from hard-hit neighboring Iran. As the coronavirus-induced crisis and panic are spiraling out of control, fortunately, there have been a few measures taken by the Afghan government to cope with the situation. For instance, there is a planned release of 10,000 prisoners from jails in compliance with a presidential decree in the next 10 days. Moreover, Afghan authorities on Friday declared a lockdown in the capital Kabul in an effort to contain the spread of the novel virus. As per the move approved by the Cabinet, all public and private offices, markets with the exception of supplying essential products, will remain closed for three weeks. However, as much as these steps are laudable, there are a few other issues that should be heeded in the drive aimed at defeating this pandemic. Surprisingly, records show that one-third of the registered infected people had no history of foreign travel, let alone to Iran – something which means that community transmission of the virus has begun in Afghanistan. Therefore, the lockdown scheme and security measure, as well as curfew, should be made a countrywide one and not just limited to the capital. On the other hand, while executing the lockdown, the people on the margins of society – poor people, daily wagers and street peddlers – should not be overlooked in terms of how they would be affected. By making the lockdown a measured one, life-support packages to sustain those who would be forced to stay at homes should be distributed by the government. Similarly, the proposed lockdown should be strictly enforced and must entail draconian regulations because, given the relentless pace of coronavirus transmission, the situation could easily and quickly get out of hands and thus prove detrimental for Afghans. Moreover, in line with the fatwa by Al Azhar – an Egypt-based institution which is a gold standard when it comes to matters of faith – suspension of congregational prayers have been permitted in order to control the spread of the virus. As the pandemic threatens humanity, our fellow Afghans should understand that staying at home and avoiding crowded areas are in their best interests, even if it is temporarily suspending going to mosques. This way every loophole that allows close contact among people should be plugged by the government; otherwise, we would face even more horrific fate than Europe against the backdrop of our depleted and appallingly inadequate health system.

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