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Editorial: On the frontline of COVID-19 pandemic

More than a million cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported across the world, with over 70,000 deaths, a staggering figure that is expected to rise even further in the future. Since the first case of COVID-19 in Afghanistan, about one and a half months back, the total number of coronavirus patients in the country has exploded over 350. Eight individuals have so far lost their lives to COVID-19, while another 12 have recovered. However, in a recent incident, a private hospital doctor has succumbed to the disease in capital Kabul. According to the Ministry of Public Health, samples from 20 other doctors working at the same medical facility are being tested to confirm whether or not they have caught the virus. Doctors are our first-line defense in this battle against the corona pandemic; however, it is unfortunate and sad to witness this crisis becoming their last stand. Judging from the horrific scenes in the US – which has now surpassed all other countries with the highest number of COVID-19 cases – and several other European countries, one can only imagine what is in store for Afghanistan. For instance, in Spain, over 14pc of the total number of coronavirus cases are healthcare workers and similarly, thousands of health workers in Italy are infected by the coronavirus since the onset of the outbreak. In Afghanistan, ill-equipped doctors dealing with the misinformed and predominantly ignorant public are extremely at peril because if doctors in well-developed and-resourced countries couldn’t cope with the virus, how will Afghanistan? The first COVID-19 fatality among the local medical community — while sadly, there would undoubtedly be more — should serve as a textbook example for our frontline warriors of what not to do in the face of a health emergency and how to employ the strictest cautious measures. Moreover, the onus is on the public, which must also exhibit a far more responsible attitude in their interaction with medical personnel at a time when recklessness or dishonesty can cost lives. There have been reported accounts of suspected COVID-19 patients deliberately concealing facts such as their travel history and bodily symptoms to avoid being sent to quarantine – something which is essential for doctors to determine the course of action to be taken. Therefore, as we salute the courage of our frontline warriors and are grateful for their selfless services, the best we can do for them is to follow the infection prevention guidelines and observe the restrictions put in place by the government. This tragedy of losing a comrade presents an opportunity for the medical community to learn and grow and thus pay more serious attention to prevent the infliction of suffering on themselves and the overall body politic of Afghanistan.

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