The Afghan government introduced a new set of mandatory health and social distancing measures on Sunday, June 7, in response to the continued spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The new restrictions include the mandatory wearing of face masks in public places, the enforcement of a two-meter social distance rule in public, and a ban on gatherings of more than ten people. Elderly people have also been ordered to remain in their homes, while offices are required to be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
The new measures have been introduced alongside COVID-19-related restrictions previously announced by the government. Under the new response plan, all hotels, schools, universities, parks, sports facilities, entertainment and social venues, and other non-essential businesses are to remain closed until at least September, although no firm reopening date was given. Restaurants and coffee shops are limited to providing a takeaway service. Inter-city and provincial bus services also remain suspended, and private vehicles limited to four occupants.
The new restrictions come as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Afghanistan, with 582 new cases being identified on Saturday. The main outbreak clusters are centered on Herat, Kabul, and Nimroz province, but cases have also been identified in Balkh, Nangarhar, Laghman, Ghor, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Kunar, Nuristan, Helmand, and Paktia in recent days.
As of June 7, there have been 20,342 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan with 357 associated deaths. However, limited testing capacity and access to some areas of the country mean the actual number of cases is likely to be significantly higher. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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