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COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan

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COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan
Afghanistan 2020 COVID-19 Map (Allio-19).png
Number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 by Province of Afghanistan as of 5 May 2020
  Confirmed cases 0
  Confirmed cases 1–9
  Confirmed cases 10–19
  Confirmed cases 20-49
  Confirmed cases 50-99
  Confirmed cases ≥100
DiseaseCOVID-19
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationAfghanistan
First caseHerat
Arrival date24 February 2020
(1 year, 1 week and 5 days)
OriginWuhan, Hubei, China
Confirmed cases4,033
Active cases3,416
Recovered502
Deaths
115
Official website
moph.gov.af/en/covid-19-pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Afghanistan when its index case, in Herat, was confirmed on 24 February 2020.[1]

As of 9 May 2020, there have been 4,033 positive cases, with 502 recoveries and 115 deaths across all 34 provinces in the country. Kabul Province has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan at 979, followed by Herat with 835 cases, and then Kandahar with 481 cases.[2]

Background[edit source | edit]

Origins[edit source | edit]

On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.[3][4] The case fatality ratio for COVID-19 has been much lower than SARS of 2003,[5][6] but the transmission has been significantly greater, with a significant total death toll.[7][5]

Mass returnees from Iran and Pakistan[edit source | edit]

In March 2020, at least 150,000 Afghans returned from Iran, due to the outbreak across the country, at the Islam Qala border in Herat Province. As many as over 1000 people a day crossed the border during the month. Between March and April 2020, the number of cases surged in Herat Province to over 200 cases.[8][9][10][11][12] At the Chaman and Torkham borders, over 60,000 Afghans returned from Pakistan in three days.[13]

Timeline[edit source | edit]

Template:COVID-19 pandemic data/Afghanistan medical cases chart

February 2020[edit source | edit]

On 23 February, at least three citizens of Herat who had recently returned from Qom, Iran were suspected of COVID-19 infection. Blood samples were sent to Kabul for further testing.[14]

On 24 February, Afghanistan confirmed the first COVID-19 case involving one of the three people from Herat, a 35-year-old man, who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.[15]

March 2020[edit source | edit]

1 to 14 March – Early spread[edit source | edit]

On 7 March, three new cases were confirmed in Herat Province.[16] The new total of positive cases in Afghanistan had risen to four.

On 10 March, the first case was reported outside of Herat province, in Samangan Province, meaning that there was a total of five cases in Afghanistan. The patient had also returned from travels in Iran.[17] This later rose to seven in the evening, as the Ministry of Public Health announced one new case in both Herat and Samangan provinces.[18]

On 14 March, the tenth positive case was confirmed. The Ministry of Public Health announced that Balkh Province and Kapisa Province had their first cases. Samangan also had their third positive case of coronavirus infection.[19] The 23-year-old patient in Dawlatabad District, in northern Balkh, fled Bo Ali Sina Hospital after testing positive.[20]

The eleventh case was also announced that day, as Abdul Qayum Rahimi, the governor of Herat, reported a new positive case of the coronavirus in the province. The total cases in Herat rose to six.[20] On 14 March, the first recorded recovery from the coronavirus in Afghanistan was a patient in Herat. Wahid Ahmad, the recovered patient (who was also the first positive case) had contracted COVID-19 from Qom and was hospitalized for two weeks. The first recovered COVID-19 patient in Afghanistan was announced to be in quarantine at home.[21] The Ministry of Health later revealed on 20 March that three tests he had taken were negative and that he was allowed to end quarantine.[22][23]

15 to 24 March – First death[edit source | edit]

Five new cases were reported on 15 March, which included the first case in Daykundi Province.[24]

On 16 March, five new positive cases were identified, meaning that the total number of cases rose to 21.[25] 38 patients, including one positive patient, escaped from quarantine in Herat Province by beating up workers in the hospital and breaking the windows with the help of relatives. All 38 patients were quarantined after returning from Iran.[26] Also on that day, the Taliban announced that they had arrested the runaway patient from Dawlatabad District, Balkh Province, and had handed him back to health authorities.[25]

On 17 March, there were 22 total cases confirmed.[27] Also on that day, seven patients that escaped from Herat Hospital were returned.[28] By 19 March, two new positive cases were confirmed for the first time in Badghis and Logar provinces.[29]

On 22 March, 10 new cases were reported out of 97 tests, resulting in a total of 34 positive cases. New cases were reported in Ghazni, Kandahar and Zabul provinces. The two new cases in Kabul Province were both foreign diplomats.[30] The first possible fatality of COVID-19 in Afghanistan was also announced on 22 March. The male patient was a new suspected case who displayed symptoms. The ministry said that the man visited a hospital in Herat because he was suffering from heart disease, but after showing signs of COVID-19 he was taken to the coronavirus treatment center in the province. An autopsy will determine whether the Herat man had contracted the coronavirus, or had died of heart disease.[31]

On 22 March, Khalilullah Hekmati, head of Balkh's public health directorate, announced the first official death of an Afghan due to COVID-19. The man died in Chimtal District, in Balkh Province. The test was confirmed positive on 22 March, but the 40-year-old patient had died three days before.[32][33] By the end of the day, the number of cases increased to 40, after six new cases were reported. These included the first two cases in Farah Province and the first case in Ghor Province. Three new cases were also reported in Herat. 18 new cases in one day marked the biggest increase of positive cases in a single day at the time.[34][35] On 23 March, two new cases were reported in the provinces of Logar and Samangan.[36] On 24 March, 32 new cases were reported, making the total number of cases 74.[37] All of the new cases were reported in Herat.[38]

25 to 31 March – Outbreak[edit source | edit]

On 25 March, five new positive cases were reported, as well as the second death in the country. The total climbed up to 79.[39] The figure later rose to 84 positive cases. The patient who died was a 45-year-old woman in Herat Province. The first case was also announced in Nimruz Province, where the patient had recently traveled to Iran. The second recovery was also reported.[40][41]

On 26 March, two deaths were announced. The first patient was a 55-year-old who had died at Herat Hospital. The second death in the evening was confirmed to be a man who had returned to Herat from London, United Kingdom. The total death toll increased to four.[42] Ten new positive cases were also reported. Eight were located in Herat Province, whilst the two other cases were from Nimruz Province.[43]

On 27 March, 16 new cases were announced by the Ministry of Health. This included 11 new cases in Herat Province, three in Farah Province and one in Ghor Province. The total number of cases reached 110. The third recovery in the country was also reported.[44] By 29 March, there was a total of 120 positive cases.[45] On 30 March, 25 new cases were announced, meaning that the total number of cases increased to 145. The first cases were recorded in Badakhshan, Nangarhar, Paktia and Sar-e Pol provinces. Two new recoveries were also reported.[46] On 31 March, the Ministry of Health reported four new cases from 60 tests. Two of the cases were reported in Kandahar, while one new case each was recorded in Daykundi and Nimruz provinces.[47] 22 other positive cases were later announced as positive with twelve in Herat, six in Kabul, and one new case each in Baghlan (the first in the province), Ghazni and Paktia provinces. By the end of March, the number of positive cases had reached 196.[48]

April 2020[edit source | edit]

1 to 9 April[edit source | edit]

On 1 April, 43 new cases were announced, including 16 doctors and nurses in Herat and two further cases in the capital, Kabul. The total number of coronavirus cases rose to 239. Health officials reported that over 100 staff members at hospitals in Herat Province are suspected cases.[49][50]

On the morning of 2 April, six new cases were reported. 5 were located in Kabul Province and one was located in Daykundi Province. The total number of cases reached 245.[51] In the evening, the figure reached 273, after 15 new cases were confirmed in Herat Province, as well as another death. The 13 other new cases were located in Baghlan, Kabul, Kandahar and Paktia provinces.[52]

On 3 April, the number of confirmed cases reached 281. 20 new cases were from Herat, 14 in Kabul, and one new case each in the provinces of Ghor, Nangarhar, and Nimroz.[53] In the evening, the Ministry of Public Health announced 299 total cases. Herat Province had 206 cases, whilst Kabul Province had the second-highest number of cases (43). The cases in Herat Province entail 144 men and 60 women, as well as four fatalities and five recoveries. New cases were also reported in Balkh, Ghazni, Logar, and Samangan provinces. The first cases were recorded in Faryab and Kunduz provinces.[54][55]

On 4 April, the Ministry of Public Health announced that the total had reached 337. The seventh fatality in the country was also reported, whilst two more patients recovered. The 38 new cases were located in 9 provinces. Herat and Kabul had ten new cases each. Kandahar had eight, Paktia had three, Balkh and Samangan had two, whilst Kapisa and Zabul provinces had one new case each. Takhar Province reported their first case. The cases in Herat Province rose to 216, while in Kabul Province it rose to 53 cases.[56]

On 5 April, the Ministry of Public Health confirmed 30 new cases, which brought the total number of cases to 367. Herat had 16 new cases, Kabul had six, Nimruz had three, Faryab and Kunduz both had two, and Daykundi only had one new case. 5 new recoveries were reported, meaning that the total number of recoveries in Afghanistan reached 17.[57]

On 6 April, the death toll increased to 11, as a doctor from a private hospital in Kabul was reported as the eleventh fatality in the country. The Health Ministry also reported the eighteenth recovery. Out of 2737 suspected cases, only 367 had tested positive.[58] However, in the evening it was reported that 27 new cases in Herat Province were recorded from 140 tests. 21 were men, while 6 were women. Overall, 56 new cases were confirmed positive. Kabul had 12 new cases, Kandahar had 10, Balkh had 5, and Nangarhar had 2 new cases confirmed. The total increased to 423.[59]

On 7 April, two new cases were reported in Kandahar Province.[60] On 8 April, the 14th death and 20th recovery were announced. A doctor had died at a clinic in Kabul, which was later closed. The first cases were reported in Helmand and Wardak provinces.[61] On 9 April, 40 new cases were reported, as well as the 15th fatality, and 32 recoveries. 14 new cases were recorded in Nimruz, ten in Kabul, seven in Kandahar, four in Paktia, two each in Balkh and Bamyan (the first cases in the province), and a single new case in Logar Province.[62] With 257 cases, four of the 15 Afghan fatalities had been reported in Herat Province. Despite this, no new cases in Herat Province were recorded on 9 April, due to a lack of testing kits.[63][64] The Ministry revealed that the deaths recorded up until 9 April entailed four in Balkh and Herat, three in Kabul, two in Nangarhar, and one each in Daykundi and Takhar provinces.[62]

10 to 19 April[edit source | edit]

On 10 April, 37 new cases were tested positive, including the first case in Parwan Province. 16 new cases were recorded in Kabul, Herat had eight, whilst Daykundi, Kandahar, Logar, Takhar all had two new cases. The Ministry of Public Health also announced that Bamiyan had a single new case.[65] By 10 April, at least 20 employees at the Arg (Presidential Palace) had contracted COVID-19 in Kabul.[66]

Another 34 cases were announced by the Ministry of Public Health in the evening. Herat and Kabul both had eight new cases, Kandahar had five, Nimruz and Wardak had four, Balkh had two, whilst Badghis, Baghlan, and Ghor all had a single new case each. The total number of cases reached 555, after an increase of 71 new cases, which was the highest number of cases reported in a single day in Afghanistan. Three new fatalities were also reported, including two men in Kabul. One of the two had spread COVID-19 to 12 other people in their family. The men were 67 and 37 years old.[67]

On 11 April, 52 new cases were recorded, meaning that the total number of cases reached 607. Kabul had 28 new cases, Kandahar had eight, Herat had seven, Balkh had four, Bamyan had two, whilst Helmand, Nangarhar, and Paktia all had a single new case each.[68] On 12 April, three new fatalities were announced by the health ministry, as the number of recoveries reached 38. 58 new cases were recorded across six provinces. Kandahar had 28 new cases, Kabul had 13, Helmand had seven, Nimruz had six, Takhar had three, and Kunduz reported a single case. Herat announced no new case in the province for the second time that week, due to a lack of testing kits.[64] The number of cases in Herat Province reached 280, whilst in Kabul the number of cases had risen to 146. The number of cases in Kandahar had rapidly increased to 75.[69]

On 13 April, 49 new cases were recorded by the health ministry across six provinces. Kabul had 18 new cases, followed by Kandahar with 15, Balkh had six, Ghazni and Herat both had four, and Nangarhar reported two new positive cases. As the number of cases increased to 714, the 40th recovery was also announced, as well as two further deaths, meaning that that the death toll had reached 23.[70]

It was reported on 14 April that Surobi District, in Kabul Province, had 31 of Kabul's cases, which included doctors and police officers.[71] On 14 April, 70 new cases were tested positive across 11 provinces. Kabul had 31 new cases, Herat had 22, Ghazni and Kandahar both had three new cases, Nangarhar, Nimruz and Wardak had two cases, whilst Baghlan and Faryab had one new case each. The first two cases were recorded in Kunar Province, as well as the first case in Urozgan Province. In Herat, the number of cases had increased to 306.[72] The number of cases in Kabul had reached 209, with 11 recoveries and six fatalities. The total number of cases in the country reached 784, with 43 recoveries and 25 deaths.[73] On 15 April, 56 new cases were recorded, meaning that the number of cases increased to 840. 37 new cases were reported in Kabul. 11 new recoveries and 5 fatalities were announced by the health ministry.[74]

On 16 April, the Ministry of Public Health announced 66 new cases from 465 tests, as well as 45 new recoveries. The total number of cases reached 906, whilst the number of recoveries increased to 99. Kabul had 26 new cases, Kandahar had 15, Balkh had six, Herat and Kunduz both had five, Helmand had four, and Kunar and Nangarhar both had one case each. The first three cases were recorded in Laghman Province.[75] Herat had 43 of the new recoveries, whilst Ghor and Kandahar had one new recovery each.[76]

On 17 April, the health ministry recorded 27 new cases and 13 new recoveries.[77] Kabul had 12 new cases, Paktia had seven, Logar had four, Herat had two, whilst Bamyan and Daykundi had one new case each.[78] On 18 April, a 65-year-old man became the sixth fatality in Balkh, as well as the 31st fatality overall in Afghanistan, as the health ministry reported that three patients had died in the past 24 hours.[79][77] 63 new cases were recorded in eight provinces, including the first case in Jowzjan Province. Kabul had 31 new cases, Balkh had 16, Kunar had six, Herat had four, and Baghlan had three. Faryab and Laghman reported one new case each. Two other fatalities were recorded that day, including the owner of a private hospital in Kabul and a surgeon in Jowzjan, as well as 15 new recoveries. The total number of recoveries reached 131, as the number of cases increased to 996.[80][81] On 19 April, three more fatalities were recorded, with two in Kabul and one in Kandahar. 35 new cases were confirmed by the health ministry, meaning that the total number of cases reached 1,031. Kabul had 15 new cases, Laghman had nine, Herat has six, Kunar had four, and Nangarhar reported a single new case. By 19 April, 110 health workers (90 men and 20 women) had tested positive and four had died. The number of recoveries increased to 135.[82] The number of COVID-19 cases in the Arg had doubled to 40.[83]

20 to 30 April[edit source | edit]

On 20 April, 66 new cases were confirmed from 311 tests. Kabul reported 52 new cases, Laghman had five, Baghlan and Nangarhar had four, and Paktia had one new case. 15 new recoveries were also recorded. The number of cases reached 1,092, as the number of recoveries reached 150.[84] On 21 April, 84 new cases were confirmed by the health ministry. Kabul had 28 new cases, Kandahar had 22, Nangarhar had six, Nimruz had five, Helmand and Kapisa had four, Herat and Kunar had three, Ghazni and Zabul had two, whilst Bamyan, Farah, Laghman, Paktia and Parwan all recorded a single new case. The number of fatalities reached 40, as the number of recoveries reached 166.[85]

On 22 April, two new fatalities were announced, as well as 14 new recoveries. The health ministry confirmed 106 new cases. Kandahar had 53 new cases, Herat had 21, Kunduz had 15, Jowzjan had 10, Kabul and Nangarhar had six, Nimruz had five, Kapisa and Logar had four, Kunar and Paktia had three, Ghazni had two, whilst Parwan and Takhar recorded a single new case. Paktika and Panjshir provinces recorded their first two cases.[86][87]

On 23 April, 63 new cases were confirmed. Out of 95 cases (including some from the previous evening), Kandahar had 53 new cases, Balkh had 21, Kabul had 11, Takhar had 10, Nangarhar and Panjshir had five in Nangarhar, Herat had three, Farah had two, whilst Daykundi, Laghman, Nimruz and Parwan recorded a single case each. Five recoveries in Herat and four recoveries in Kandahar were announced by the health ministry. The total number of recovered cases reached 188. A new fatality was recorded in Kandahar, as the total number of deaths in Afghanistan increased to 43. In the evening, Balkh announced 21 new cases and a single new case in Nimruz. A suspected patient in Kabul died before he was tested positive.[88]

On 24 April, 112 new cases were reported by the health ministry. Out of 133 cases (with some from the previous evening), Herat had 25, Balkh had 21, Kandahar had 20, Kabul and Paktia had 16, Nimruz and Samangan had seven, Kapisa, Logar and Zabul had three, Bamyan, Ghor and Urozgan had two, whilst Baghlan, Helmand, Parwan and Wardak all recorded a single new case. Four new fatalities were also reported over 24 hours. One of them was Assadullah Fazli, who had previously served as the head of the Kunar public health directorate. The number of recoveries had reached 206.[89] On 25 April, the number of fatalities increased to 50. Out of three new fatalities, two were in Ghazni and one was in Herat. 68 of 242 tests were positive. Ghazni had 13, Paktia had 11, Paktika had nine, Balkh had eight, Badghis and Kabul had six, Herat and Nangarhar had four, Khost and Laghman had three, and one case was recorded in Baghlan. The number of recoveries had reached 207.[90]

On 26 April, 172 new cases were tested positive from 600 samples across 18 provinces. Balkh had 34, Herat had 33, Kabul had 27, Kandahar had 21, Baghlan and Paktia had eight, Kunduz had seven, Ghor and Sar e-Pol had five, Faryab, Nimruz and Samangan had four, Khost, Laghman and Nangarhar had three, Helmand had two, whilst Paktika and Panjshir recorded a single new case each. Seven new fatalities were confirmed by the health ministry. The number of recoveries reached 220.[91] On 27 April, 125 new cases were tested positive from 361 samples across 18 provinces. Herat had 21, Kabul had 15, Balkh had 10, Logar had nine, Jowzjan had eight, Lagman, Paktia and Panjshir had seven, Ghazni and Takhar had six, Nangarhar had five, Helmand, Kunar and Wardak had two, whilst Badakhshan, Badghis and Kapisa recorded a single new case each. One new fatality was reported. The number of recoveries reached 228.[92]

On 28 April, 111 new cases were tested positive. The number of confirmed cases reached 1,939. The number of fatalities reached 60, as the number of recoveries reached 252. On 29 April, 232 cases were tested positive from 581 samples across 23 provinces. The number of confirmed cases reached 2,171. Kandahar had 45, Balkh had 41, Kabul had 20, Ghazni had 12, Logar and Paktia had 10, Panjshir and Samangan had nine, Takhar had eight, Kunduz had seven, Baghlan and Nangarhar had five, Badghis and Wardak had four, Laghman had three, Paktika and Parwan had two, whist Faryab and Sar e-Pol recorded a single new case each. Four new fatalities were reported, with two in Herat and one in Kabul. The number of recoveries reached 260.[93]

On 30 April, 164 new cases were tested positive. The number of cases increased to 2,335. 50 new recoveries and four new fatalities were announced by the health ministry. The number of recoveries reached 310.[94] 228 health workers had been infected.[95]

May 2020[edit source | edit]

1–9 May[edit source | edit]

On 1 May, the health ministry reported 179 new cases from 591 samples across 12 provinces, bringing the total to 2,469. From 164 recent cases, the health ministry announced that Kabul had 75, Herat had 23, Balkh had 18, Jowzjan had 16, Kandahar had 15, Ghazni had 10, Baghlan had seven, Logar had five, Takhar had four, Ghor had three, Zabul had two, and Helmand had one new case. The number of recoveries reached 331 as the death toll reached 72. 249 health workers had been infected.[96]

On 2 May, the health ministry announced 235 new cases. Kabul had 65 new cases, Kandahar had 54, Herat had 19, Panjshir had 14, Takhar had 13, Nangarhar had 12, Ghor and Samangan had 10, Baghlan had nine, Wardak had seven, Badghis, Bamyan and Laghman had five, Sar e-Pol had three, Kunar and Parwan had two, whilst Farah and Helmand recorded a single new case each. The number of recoveries reached 345. 13 new fatalities were recorded across Afghanistan, meaning that the death toll reached 85.[97]

On 3 May, the health ministry announced 190 new cases. Paktia had 41, Herat had 30, Kandahar had 25, Kabul had 24, Balkh had 17, Nangarhar had 13, Laghman had 11, Farah had nine, Sar e-Pol had six, Kunar had five, Zabul had three, Paktika had two, whilst Helmand, Khost, Nimruz and Urozgan recorded a single new case each. Five new fatalities were recorded, which included two in Paktia. Herat, Kabul and Wardak reported a single new fatality each. The death toll reached 90 as the number of recoveries reached 397.[98]

On 4 May, the health ministry announced 330 new cases, which is the highest number of cases reported in a single day in Afghanistan. Herat had 59, Kabul had 45, Kandahar had 41, Balkh had 38, Paktia had 26, Nangarhar had 13, Panjshir had 12, Laghman and Takhar had 11, Logar and Samangan had 10, Paktika had nine, Parwan had seven, Faryab had six, Ghazni, Kunar and Kunduz had five, Kapisa and Wardak had four, Badakhshan and Zabul had three, Farah had two, whilst Helmand recorded a single new case. Five new fatalities were recorded, which included two in Logar. Baghlan, Laghman and Nangarhar reported a single new fatality each. The death toll reached 95 as the number of recoveries reached 421.[99]

On 5 May, the health ministry announced 31 new recoveries and nine fatalities. From 168 new cases, Kabul had 67, Herat had 32, Kandahar had 14, Nangarhar had 11, Faryab and Laghman had nine, Logar had eight, Baghlan, Balkh and Paktia had four, Kunar had two, whilst Helmand, Samangan and Sar e-Pol recorded a single new case each. The first case was recorded in Nuristan Province, the last province to report a COVID-19 case. The number of recoveries reached 458 as the death toll reached 104.[100]

On 7 May, it was reported that the health minister, Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, had tested positive and was isolating at home.[101]

Other cases[edit source | edit]

Pakistan identified two positive cases at the Torkham border, on 12 March. It was reported that one Afghan citizen with coronavirus was returned from Torkham to Afghanistan. The second case at the border was a Pakistani embassy employee from Kabul.[102] On 15 March, Pakistan deported 10 Afghans at Torkham after they developed flu-like symptoms.[103]

On 24 March, the Resolute Support Mission reported that 4 coalition service members had tested positive.[104]

Also on 24 March, a 51-year-old Afghan national in Medina, Saudi Arabia was announced as the first casualty from the coronavirus in that country. The Afghan had died on 23 March.[105][106]

On 7 May, it was reported that the health minister, Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, had tested positive and was isolating at home.[107]

Prevention measures[edit source | edit]

Testing and health facilities[edit source | edit]

COVID-19 health facilities in Afghanistan by Province
Province Hospitals for COVID-19 patients Testing capacity per day
Balkh 1 50
Herat 2 140
Kabul 3 400
Kandahar 1 -
Nangarhar 1 200
Total (5 Provinces) 8 790

Up until 10 March, the Afghan government had spent $15 million in response to the outbreak and a total of 142 suspected cases had been tested, with only five being positive for COVID-19.[17] Tests were sent to the Netherlands to ensure testing accuracy. Isolation centers were also set up across the country.[108] Up until 14 March, the Afghan government had spent $25 million to tackle the outbreak, which included $7 million of aid packages. A total of 50,000 testing kits had been supplied by the Afghan government.[109] On 14 March, the Ministry of Public Health had tested 181 suspected cases. The samples of the suspected cases were from Herat, Samangan, Kapisa, Balkh, Daykundi, Parwan and Paktia provinces.[19][20] By 18 March, the Ministry of Public Health had registered at least 340 suspected cases of coronavirus in 23 provinces of the country since the start of the outbreak.[110] On 18 March, the government had set up five quarantine centers in Herat and Nimruz.[111]

On 20 March, the Ministry of Public Health said that no private labs or hospitals are allowed to undertake the checking of suspected or positive patients. The Ministry of Public Health announced that they intended to increase the capacity of laboratories for testing coronavirus samples in Herat and Balkh provinces. it was announced that a new laboratory in Herat is under construction, after the only laboratory in the country was in Kabul, meaning that it took longer to diagnose people who took tests.[112] The Health Ministry later restricted the policy on testing, testing only people with a high fever. It was reported that returnees from Iran had visited the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, which treats COVID-19 patients in Kabul, but were not tested. By 27 March, only 600 tests on returnees from Iran had been carried out.[113] The Ministry reported that in total, over 1000 tests had been carried out by 28 March.[114][115]

On 30 March, the Minister of Public Health, Ferozuddin Feroz, announced the plan to increase the capacity of health facilities in Afghanistan to 1000 tests a day by the end of the week. A center previously used to treat animals is operating as a testing facility, performing around 100 tests in 24 hours. By the end of March 2020, Afghanistan's COVID-19 testing centers had the capacity of 600 tests a day. 400 of them were in Kabul, 100 in Herat and 100 in Nangarhar.[46]

On 4 April, the Ministry of Public Health opened a testing center in Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh Province, with the capacity of testing 30 cases a day. The capacity of the center was expected to increase to 200 cases per day within a week.[116] Also on that day, a 300-bed temporary hospital was opened in Herat Province, designated for COVID-19 patients. A local businessman had decided to convert a hotel into a hospital and treatment center for COVID-19 patients. The new hospital is the second center for COVID-19 patients in the province and the capacity of the new hospital will increase to 1000 beds, if needed. Suspected cases in Herat Province will also be admitted to the hospital. Around 200 doctors and nurses were hired at the hospital and received training on the COVID-19 treatment.[55] On 7 April, a testing facility in Kandahar opened, which also caters for the provinces of Helmand, Urozgan, and Zabul.[117] On 8 April, the Ministry of Public Health announced that there are only 300 ventilators in Afghanistan.[118]

On 12 April, it was announced at the new testing center in Herat, that testing was suspended for twice in a week due to a lack of kits, resulting in no new cases reported from Herat on 9 and 12 April. The new testing facility only has the capacity of 140 tests a day and has to cater for Badghis, Farah, Ghor, and Nimruz provinces.[64] Meanwhile, in Balkh, a new hospital was opened in Mazar-i-Sharif, which can treat up to 200 patients. Despite this, there are only 15 ventilators. This is the sixth COVID-19 designated hospital after two in Herat and Kabul, and another one in Nangarhar. In contrast to Herat's testing capacity, the testing facility in Balkh has a capacity of 50 tests a day.[119] In Kandahar Province, there is also a 350-bed hospital in the Aino Mena district of Kandahar.[120]

On 15 April, it was reported in Herat, that around 40 patients were reported to be at hospital, meaning that around 260 patients were isolated at home at their own request. The patients in isolation are still in contact with doctors.[72] On 16 April, the Afghan-Japan Hospital in Kabul stopped accepting samples for COVID-19 testing for two days, due to a surge in requests, despite having the capacity to test 300 samples a day. It was reported that some people had waited for results for almost two weeks.[121] On 18 April, it was reported that there was a lack of testing kits in Balkh, which led to a stop in testing.[79] On 17 April, Balkh's testing centers announced that they needed health equipment for doctors.[122] It was also announced that there was a lack of RNA testing kits, but the World Health Organization (WHO) had some supplied testing kits for Afghanistan.[123] An opening ceremony was held at Darul Aman Palace, where a new COVID-19 isolation and treatment center has 200 beds. Due to 30 suspected deaths in Surobi District, Kabul Province, a new treatment facility with 20 beds was built. By 18 April, the Government of Afghanistan had given $15 million to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), after the $100 million from the World Bank had not arrived at this point. The plan for an isolation center with 10,000 beds was announced, as well as an overall 100,000 beds across centers in Afghanistan. Up until 18 April, 5,800 samples had been tested.[77]

By 20 April, over 6,000 tests had been carried out.[124] On 20 April, 5,000 new testing kits arrived in Afghanistan. It was also reported that 11 of the 16 RNA testing kits had been used.[125] By 21 April, around 5,300 tests had been carried out.[126] By 24 April, 7,425 samples had been tested.[127] The health ministry announced that the problem with the RNA testing kits had been resolved.[89] By 25 April, 8,090 tests had been carried out.[90] By 26 April, there were testing centers in 22 police districts in Kabul run by volunteer health workers.[128] 8,694 tests had been carried out.[91] On 27 April, the government approved the purchase of 500 new ventilators, as well as a $4 million funding for the construction and renovation of COVID-19 facilities. $164 million was spent altogether, which also included testing kits.[129] By 27 April, 9,000 tests had been carried out.[92] By 29 April, 10,022 tests had been carried out. PCR testing started at the Afghan-Japan hospital in Kabul.[93] By 30 April, 10,593 tests had been carried out.[130] By 1 May, 11,068 tests had been carried out.[131] By 4 May, 13,076 tests had been carried out.[132] By 5 May, 13,777 tests had been carried out.[133]

Lockdown measures[edit source | edit]

On 14 March, President Ashraf Ghani, told the public to avoid large public gatherings and to pay attention to hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease.[20] On 18 March, the Ministry of Interior Affairs banned all large gatherings, including the closure of venues that attract large crowds such as entertainment places, sports grounds, swimming pools, fitness clubs and wedding halls.[112]

On 22 March, Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz urged the government to order the lockdown of the city of Herat at a press conference in Kabul.[30] Members of the Wolesi Jirga of Afghanistan's parliament decided to hold a general session once a week to avoid the spread of COVID-19.[134] The spokesperson of the Health Ministry, Wahidullah Mayar, announced that 449 suspected cases had been tested across 28 provinces up until 22 March. Most suspected cases were from Herat and Kabul.[135]

On 24 March, in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, the local authorities placed strict measures in the provincial capital, limiting the movement of citizens until 1 April.[136][137] On 25 March, the Afghan Government began to limit the movement of residents in Farah, Herat and Nimruz provinces, after Herat emerged as a major source of internal transmissions in Afghanistan. In Herat, praying in mosques was suspended to prevent any possible spread of the virus. Residents of Farah and Zaranj could only go out for necessary activities.[138][139][140]

On 26 March, the government announced the release of 10,000 prisoners that were aged over 55 to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the country. This also consisted of mainly women, youths and the critically ill.[141] Based on President Ashraf Ghani's decree, the prisoners would be released over the 10 following days. The release of prisoners did not include members of Islamist militant groups.[142][143] Also on that day, Afghan authorities extended the lockdown to Kabul, Kandahar, and Logar provinces.[144] Also on 26 March, the mayor of Mazar-i-Sharif said that in addition to closing restaurants in the city, disinfection of public places is also taking place.[145]

On 27 March, it was announced that the Afghan cabinet had decided that the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, would undergo lockdown from 28 March for three weeks. The lockdown will ensure that residents stay at home, avoiding all non-essential travel and gatherings. Residents would also need to provide valid reasons if they decide to leave their homes. All restaurants, hotels, sauna, cafes, public bathing centers, shrines, gyms, parks and other stores will remain closed for 3 weeks, except for grocery stores and banks.[146] It was also announced that all sport venues, shrines and other public gathering places would remain closed for the duration of lockdown in Kabul.[147] Public transport carrying more than 5 passengers will also be banned. Large educational institutes and wedding halls will be transformed into isolation centers to quarantine those who return from Iran for two weeks. A total of 70 military teams will patrol Kabul to identify people with symptoms.[148] On 4 April, officials from Balkh Province reported that Mazar-i-Sharif is under partial lockdown as public places were closed.[116]

By 9 April, over 1,500 police officers had been deployed in Kabul.[149] The lockdown measures in Kabul Province were made stricter on 12 April. All main highways were closed, as the lockdown was extended for a further two weeks. The Ministry of Interior Affairs announced that there would be consequences for anyone that violates the lockdown.[150] On 17 April, the lockdown in Kabul Province was extended by three weeks until 9 May.[151][152]

International funding and local aid[edit source | edit]

On 14 March, Beijing (China) announced that they would give aid to Afghanistan. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank and World Health Organization also announced that they would provide help.[109] The Chinese medical aid arrived on 2 April, after aid from the United Arab Emirates was received on the previous day. It was also announced on that day that Uzbekistan would provide aid for five of the northern provinces of Afghanistan.[153][51][154] On 23 April, a second shipment of medical equipment arrived from China.[155]

On 21 March, Afghanistan contributed $1 million to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) emergency fund to help fight COVID-19.[156] On 3 April, the World Bank approved $100.4 million of aid to help Afghanistan.[157] In April 2020, the European Union (EU) announced that they would provide technical support and €117 million for Afghanistan.[151][158]

During the lockdown in Kabul, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock donated food for an emergency group to distribute across the province.[159] In April 2020, Amanullah Kaliwal began to distribute 500 masks a day to the poor for free, which had been sewn at home. In less than a week, 4000 masks had been distributed to the poor in Kabul.[160] On 23 April, it was reported that in western Kabul medical workers had begun volunteering by distributing food and equipment (such as gloves) to poor families. They also provided counseling advice and disinfected roads.[161]

Public awareness campaigns[edit source | edit]

A cartoon demonstrating how social distancing reduces the rate of COVID-19 transmission and stop it before it can become an outbreak. To save loved ones and oneself, every citizen should follow it with enthusiasm and make oneself self-isolate.[162]

On 22 March, doctors at Blossom Hospital in Kabul launched a public awareness campaign to help the public understand how to prevent the spread of the virus. This included distributing over 5000 surgical masks to the public.[110]

On 23 March, Cordaid announced that they would distribute soap in communities, handle waste management and supply thermometers to reduce the risk of spread in Afghanistan. They also held community awareness sessions and helped to improve the referral systems of patients to health centers that have a treatment ward for COVID-19.[163]

Clerics and religious scholars enforced a fatwa on 5 April.[164] It was reported on 6 April, that many volunteer groups and community health workers had begun awareness campaigns, such as a door-to-door campaign by a group of women in Parwan Province and a provincial campaign for Faryab Province by local officials. The Ministry of Public Health also began to spread awareness via social media and traditional media.[165] On 12 April, it was announced that a group under the name, Voice of the pulpit and the doctor, would launch a public awareness campaign in Kabul. The group consists of doctors and religious scholars.[166]

On 14 April, Bayat Group, one of the largest private companies in Afghanistan, launched the Stop The Virus (STV) campaign. The campaign also includes the disinfection of cities.[167] The group also began to distribute food in Herat.[168] By 16 April, the government had spent 27 million afs on awareness campaigns.[158]

Taliban's cooperation[edit source | edit]

On 16 March, the Taliban announced that in Balkh Province, they arrested the runaway patient who tested positive for coronavirus and handed him back to health authorities. The Taliban also spread awareness of the coronavirus in insurgent-controlled areas of Afghanistan and supported governmental health workers. They also asked for Afghan returnees from Iran to be tested for COVID-19.[169]

On 27 March, the Taliban started a public awareness campaign in Jowzjan Province. On 29 March, the Taliban launched a COVID-19 public awareness campaign in Logar Province.[170] The Taliban offered safe passage to health workers that are treating coronavirus patients in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Taliban enforced lockdowns in affected districts. People who were suspected of having COVID-19 were quarantined.[171]

Mask and PPE production[edit source | edit]

On 26 February, a mask-production plant in Herat Province (the epicenter of the outbreak in Afghanistan) opened. The plant produces over 60,000 masks on a daily basis. The Ministry of Public Health announced that this would be important in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and would also help decrease the surge in prices for surgical masks.[172] On 14 April, a factory opened in Kabul, which is the first in Afghanistan that produces personal protective equipment (PPE). It produces 10,000 masks per day.[71][173]

Impacts[edit source | edit]

Cultural events and religion[edit source | edit]

The Blue Mosque was closed during the lockdown in Mazar-i-Sharif.

The annual Nowruz festival in Mazar-i-Sharif and across the whole of Afghanistan was not held in 2020, in order to prevent the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic.[174][102][175] The Nowruz celebrations in Balkh were canceled after the first case was reported on 14 March.[20] People were also not allowed to enter the Shrine of Hazrat Ali in Mazar-i-Sharif.[176]

Around 500 mosques were closed in Herat in late March 2020. On 5 April, the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs and clerics announced a fatwa, including restrictions on Friday prayers and other prayers in mosques across Afghanistan.[164]

Sports[edit source | edit]

The Afghanistan National Olympic Committee (ANOC) announced that all sport events were canceled after 14 March, including a Buzkashi league tournament that was being held in Kabul.[19]

Economy[edit source | edit]

Loss of jobs and poverty[edit source | edit]

In Herat Province, more than 35,000 shops and factories were closed by 16 April, leading to a loss of profits and unemployment. Economic difficulties has resulting in workers and shop owners being unable to pay rents. Construction also stopped in the province.[177] On 17 April, shopkeepers and street vendors across Kabul announced that there incomes had been affected by the lockdown. Breadwinners of families and low-wage vendors have been badly affected in poor communities of Kabul. According to the government, a future program will provide aid.[178] On 18 April, Balkh officials and volunteers announced that over 20,000 displaced people and returnees, as well as over 10,000 vulnerable families in the province, needed assistance due to the loss of jobs, low wages, and unemployment. Food supplies from Uzbekistan had not been distributed to the vulnerable families yet, despite arriving weeks earlier.[154]

Local businesses[edit source | edit]

On 12 April, the national power company, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), asked the government for a $50 million loan after announcing that they had lost 60% of their revenue due to the outbreak.[179] If the imported electricity from Uzbekistan is not paid, Afghanistan could have power cuts.[180]

On 21 April, the Ministry of Interior Affairs started an investigation on an active restaurant (Seven Stars) in Taimani, during the lockdown in Kabul. The owner of the restaurant attacked a reported for TOLOnews.[181] On 22 April, the restaurant was closed and the owner was prosecuted.[182] On 23 April, the investigation on Shakila Ibrahim, the owner of Seven Stars, was sent to the Attorney General's Office of Afghanistan. The Afghan Journalist Safety Committee advised the government to take the investigation seriously.[183]

Trading[edit source | edit]

On 16 April, nearly 2000 containers set for Afghanistan were stuck at the Port of Karachi in Pakistan.[184]

Education[edit source | edit]

It was announced on 14 March, that all educational institutes in the country would not open until 21 April.[185] However, from 11 April, it was announced that lessons would be taught online via television and radio.[186]

Social[edit source | edit]

On 21 March, wedding halls and hammams were closed and governmental departments with large numbers of employees stopped working.[112] The five week lockdown in the capital, Kabul, affected small businesses, such as local shop owners.[187] On 9 May, 6 protesters were killed in Ghor while protesting against the unfair food aid distribution during the pandemic.[188]

Immigration[edit source | edit]

The Islam Qala border.

During March 2020, over 30,000 Afghan immigrants were reported to have returned from Iran, via Islam Qala port, after the outbreak in the country. This marked the highest rate of returning immigrants from Iran in over a decade.[189][190]

Effects on travel[edit source | edit]

Travel restrictions[edit source | edit]

After the three suspected cases in Herat, Afghanistan later temporarily closed its border with Iran on 23 February 2020.[191]

In March 2020, the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority restricted most international flights by Afghan airlines due to the global pandemic. Ariana Afghan Airlines and Kam Air suspended all flights, except from flights to Dubai and Pakistan.[192] On 1 April, the Government of Afghanistan suspended flights between Kabul and Herat.[193]

Pakistan's response[edit source | edit]

In response to Afghanistan's and Iran's cases, Pakistan closed its border at Chaman with Afghanistan for at least three weeks, starting on 2 March, as both countries confirmed rising number of cases over the weeks.[194][195][196] On 13 March, all land borders with Pakistan were closed.[197] It was also announced that Pakistan would completely seal its land border with Afghanistan from 16 March for at least two weeks.[198] On 21 March, Pakistan reopened its border with Afghanistan.[199]

The Torkham border crossing.

On 4 April, Pakistan announced that the Chaman and Torkham borders will open between 6 and 9 April for stranded Afghans to return to their country at the request of the Afghan Government.[200][201][202][203]

Statistics[edit source | edit]

Overview[edit source | edit]

The table below shows the confirmed COVID-19 cases in each Province of Afghanistan.[74][75][84][85][204] By 5 May 2020, all 34 provinces had at least one confirmed positive case of COVID-19.

Map of the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan as of 1 May 2020.
  Confirmed cases 0
  Confirmed cases 1–9
  Confirmed cases 10–19
  Confirmed cases 20-49
  Confirmed cases 50-99
  Confirmed cases ≥100
COVID-19 in Afghanistan by Province as of 9 May 2020[2]
Province Cases Deaths Recoveries
Badakhshan Province 8 0 1
Badghis Province 34 0 2
Baghlan Province 60 3 4
Balkh Province 324 16[79] 10[122][116]
Bamyan Province 29 1 7
Daykundi Province 10 1 5
Farah Province 19 0 6
Faryab Province 31 2 4
Ghazni Province 87 6 4
Ghor Province 31 0 2
Helmand Province 27[69] 0 16
Herat Province 835 19 175[55]
Jowzjan Province 65 1 2
Kabul Province 979[lower-alpha 1] 18 139
Kandahar Province 481 9 21
Kapisa Province 19 0 2
Khost Province 10 1 0
Kunar Province 43 1 0
Kunduz Province 53 2 5
Laghman Province 88 1 21
Logar Province 70 4 6
Nangarhar Province 150 12 16
Nimruz Province 53 0 12
Nuristan Province 2 0 0
Paktia Province 198 3 29
Paktika Province 28 1 1
Panjshir Province 54 2 0
Parwan Province 17 3 0
Samangan Province 59 0 6
Sar-e Pol Province 17 1 0
Takhar Province 94 5 2
Urozgan Province 4 0 1
Wardak Province 33 1 1
Zabul Province 21 0 3
Total (34 Provinces) 4,033[lower-alpha 2] 115 502[lower-alpha 3]

Graphs[edit source | edit]

See also[edit source | edit]

Notes[edit source | edit]

  1. Including 4 foreign troops.
  2. 19 cases from 8 April 2020 are not shown from Ghazni, Baghlan, Logar, Wardak, and Takhar.[205] Only Kabul cases have been confirmed (37 of 56) on 16 April 2020.[206]
  3. The locations of the 18th-99th recoveries have not been given.[207]

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