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Editorial: Draconian measures to tackle COVID-19

Since its emergence, the COVID-19 has had a ripple effect across the globe as the death toll from the pandemic surged past 5,000 with nearly 150,000 infections. With five more positive cases of the coronavirus in Afghanistan, the total number of the registered infected persons has reached 16, thanks to the downplaying of the threat by health authorities who had earlier said the situation didn’t call for panic. But for a country like Afghanistan, where there is a lack of facilities and resources, they should have recognized that the challenge is enormous. Because the government hadn’t taken it seriously enough before, it is springing into action now only after the situation is seemingly getting out of control. With the wisdom of hindsight, the celebrations of Farmers’ Day, Nawroz Festival, and other exhibitions have been canceled. The government has also urged the people not to hold wedding parties and other public events until the coronavirus threat subsides. Meanwhile, all government and private educational institutes have been recently announced to remain closed until April 18 to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The tardy approach by the Afghan government to rein in the virus would come at severe costs now. Had Afghanistan taken the virus with utmost seriousness just like Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, we wouldn’t have been in this situation in the first place. The first and foremost negligence was not keeping the border shut with Iran. Now that we are grappling with the virus, the government should tighten up on restrictions. To interrupt the chain of the disease’s transmission, Afghanistan now needs to take highly strict measures, which will undoubtedly prove disruptive, as our country has even no choice but to lock down cities. We have had imported cases from Iran so far, as 11,000 Afghan refugees returned from the country, but the rising number of infected people signify that we would have new waves of internal infections and transmissions of the virus. At this hour, the government should emulate the success of countries like Singapore. It should ask for the assistance of China, where the virus is on a downward trend given the fact that it recorded its lowest number of new infections, only 17, on Friday. Moreover, the economy in Afghanistan would be seriously affected as economies around the world are already seeing sharp downswings as a result of the fallout from the efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. By the same token, slowing down of the Afghan economy is inevitable given the threat. The issue facing the country now is a lack of funding. Herat provincial governor has already complained about receiving no budget from the central government to get the virus spread under control. The country needs to resolve this issue by seeking funds from the international community. The step of shutting educational institutes and such other measures are laudable because it’s not too late yet. At this hour, the government should continue taking at hand draconian measures and methods to emerge victorious in dealing with this phenomenon. Similarly, the Afghan masses’ contribution is key in this regard. They should heed the advice of health authorities and cooperate accordingly by observing proper personal hygiene.

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