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COVID-19

Afghanistan witnesses decline in Coronavirus cases: MoPH

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2020)

Jawad Osmani, Acting Minister of the Public Health, says the number of people infected with the Coronavirus decreased to halve compared to a month and a half ago. 

Coronavirus has declined in Afghanistan; as the Acting Minister of Public Health himself has removed the medical mask from his face at the press conference and used a home mask instead. 

Javad Osmani said: “Compared to two months ago, the infected patients to the virus decreased by 30 percent. If the Coronavirus patients do not reach less than 5%, the situation will not get back to normal.”

On the other hand, the Anti-Corona Emergency Committee warns that as of today, 15 moving teams are inspecting restaurants, cafes, and parks, and if they do not follow the health recommendations, they will be fined first and then they will be banned.

“Today we have sent 15 moving teams to the city to fine and block restaurants and cafes that have started arbitrarily, and this time nothing is acceptable,” said Mohammad Yaqub Haidari, Kabul’s governor.

Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs said that those citizens who remain out of the Hajj shift this year will be able to perform the Hajj next year while maintaining the same shift.

Officials at the Ministry of Public Health say that researchers have found that the Coronavirus can spread through the air. They warn people if they do not avoid unnecessary patrols and commute on Eid al-Adha, they will see the second wave of coronavirus.

COVID-19

Anxious WHO implores world to ‘do it all’ in long war on COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

The World Health Organization warned on Monday that there might never be a “silver bullet” for COVID-19 in the form of a perfect vaccine and that the road to normality would be long, with some countries requiring a reset of strategy.

Reuters reported that more than 18.14 million people around the world are reported to have been infected with the disease and 688,080​ have died, according to a Reuters tally, with some nations that thought they were over the worst experiencing a resurgence.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan exhorted nations to rigorously enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing, and testing.

“The message to people and governments is clear: ‘Do it all’,” Tedros told a virtual news briefing from the U.N. body’s headquarters in Geneva. He said face masks should become a symbol of solidarity around the world.

“A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment – and there might never be.”

The WHO head said that, while the coronavirus was the biggest health emergency since the early 20th century, the international scramble for a vaccine was also “unprecedented”.

But he underscored uncertainties. “There are concerns that we may not have a vaccine that may work or its protection could be for just a few months, not more. But until we finish the clinical trials, we will not know.”

“THE WAY OUT IS LONG”

Ryan said countries with high transmission rates, including Brazil and India, needed to brace for a big battle: “The way out is long and requires a sustained commitment,” he said, calling for a “reset” of approach in some places.

“Some countries are really going to have to take a step back now and really take a look at how they are addressing the pandemic within their national borders,” he added.

Asked about the U.S. outbreak, which White House coronavirus experts say is entering a “new phase”, he said officials seemed to have set out the “right path” and it was not the WHO’s job to do so.

The WHO officials said an advance investigation team had concluded its China mission and laid out the groundwork for further efforts to identify the origins of the virus.

The study is one of the demands made by top donor the United States which plans to leave the body next year, accusing it of being too acquiescent to China.

A larger, WHO-led team of Chinese and international experts is planned next, including in the city of Wuhan, although the timing and composition of that were unclear. Ryan said China had already given some information but knowledge gaps remained.

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No end in sight to COVID crisis, its impact will last for ‘decades’

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(Last Updated On: August 2, 2020)

The World Health Organization’s emergency committee has warned that there is no end in sight yet to the COVID-19 public health crisis that has so far infected more than 17 million people and killed over 650,000 people. 

Following its fourth emergency meeting, the emergency committee, convened by the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “unanimously agreed” the outbreak still constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. 

In a statement issued on Saturday, the WHO highlighted the “anticipated lengthy duration” of the pandemic, noting “the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts.” 

‘Once-in-a-century health crisis’

“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come”, Tedros told the Committee in his opening remarks on Friday. 

“Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths. And some that had large outbreaks have brought them under control.” 

The Committee made a range of recommendations to both WHO and Member States. 

It advised the agency to continue to mobilize global and regional multilateral organizations and partners for COVID-19 preparedness and response and to support Member States in maintaining health services, while also accelerating the research and eventual access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. 

It advised countries to support these research efforts, including through funding.

The committee also advised countries to strengthen public health policies to identify cases, and improve speedy contact tracing, “including in low-resource, vulnerable, or high-risk settings and to maintain essential health services with sufficient funding, supplies, and human resources.” 

Countries were also advised by the committee to implement proportionate measures and advice on travel, based on risk assessments, and to review these measures regularly.

 

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SIGAR reports Afghanistan heading for humanitarian disaster due to COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: August 1, 2020)

With limited resources to deal with the spread of COVID-19 in Afghanistan and high poverty levels inhibiting compliance with government-mandated lockdowns, experts have warned that the country is headed for a humanitarian disaster.

As of mid-July, Afghanistan had reached 35,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,094 deaths but public-health officials warned that actual cases are likely much higher given the government’s low testing capacity.

In addition, COVID-19 has likely pushed Afghanistan into a recession, overwhelmed the country’s basic health-care system and the numbers infected and dead are likely to be vastly undercounted, a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) stated this week. 

According to the report, released on Thursday, testing remains limited, but nearly 43 percent of samples were testing positive as of July 15, one of the highest rates in the world.

The overwhelming effect of the virus has, as UNAMA head Deborah Lyons put it, cast “a huge shadow” over Afghan daily life.

According to the report, as of July 15, the number of reported deaths remained low at just 1,094, but this figure may vastly undercount the true toll of the virus as not only has the testing capacity remained limited but many Afghans do not have access to medical facilities.

At the end of June, the Asia Foundation’s country director wrote: “I have been unable to keep track of the growing number of deaths among my own acquaintances, relatives, and friends’ families.”

While the governor of Kabul Mohammad Yaqub Haidari said at a press conference in June that the city’s ambulance service had reported an average of approximately 33 deaths per day.

SIGAR reported that commenting on the lack of an accurate death count, the head of a Kabul-based hospital dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients estimated that roughly 75 percent of those who died at the hospital had not been tested.

The report also stated that available COVID-19 data points to rapid spread with undetected infection.

As of early June, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health could test only 2,000 of the 10,000–20,000 samples received daily, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a humanitarian-oriented nongovernmental organization.

“Consequently, up to 90 percent of potential cases are not being tested,” the report read. 

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s positivity rate – or the proportion of tests that return a positive result divided by the total number of tests conducted – was nearly 43 percent, as of July 15.

SIGAR stated that this was one of the highest positivity rates in the world, based on data collected by Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and, separately, by the IRC.

Overall, the IRC said, Afghanistan faced a “humanitarian disaster.”

“The potential for disaster is heightened by the probability that the pandemic will have secondary effects on broader health outcomes,” the report stated. 

In addition to this, SIGAR reported that the economic shock of the pandemic – including increased unemployment, food-supply disruptions due to border closures, and rising food prices – has exacerbated Afghans’ food insecurity, already impacted by the ongoing conflict and high poverty levels. 

In May, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a common global scale for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity and malnutrition, warned that about one-third of Afghanistan’s estimated 32.2 million people remain in either a crisis or emergency state of food insecurity and require urgent action.

Another challenge the Afghan government is facing is the lack of public cooperation over public-health recommendations. 

SIGAR stated that although information campaigns have been launched to help curb the spread of the virus, Afghans are increasingly moving about in Kabul. 

Health officials have warned that the public was not paying sufficient attention to the crisis.

Meanwhile, public-health conditions in areas under Taliban control remain unclear, SIGAR reported. 

According to them, the group has released messages and videos as part of a public relations campaign highlighting its COVID-19 response, including enforcing quarantine. 

“Yet, as aid officials have argued, it has been difficult to assess the effectiveness of the Taliban’s actions,” the report stated. 

In addition to this Afghanistan also lacks the medical equipment necessary to treat patients diagnosed with COVID-19. 

SIGAR stated that while the Afghan government approved the purchase of 500 ventilators in April, the country’s hospitals currently have only 300 ventilators to help patients.

“Furthermore, Kabul hospitals have also reported a severe lack of oxygen, resulting in relatives bringing makeshift oxygen balloons to help suffering patients,” the report stated.

The pandemic meanwhile has also had a severe impact on the country’s economy. 

The IMF said that Afghanistan had likely entered a recession, forecasting that Afghanistan’s GDP would contract by three percent in 2020.

Projected economic contraction by other experts ranged from three percent to 10 percent. 

Describing the outlook as “dire,” the World Bank said South Asia would likely experience its worst economic performance in the last four decades and predicted that Afghanistan would be the worst regional performer in 2020, other than the Maldives.

“The pandemic is inflicting severe economic and social damage, with its depth and duration subject to great uncertainty,” the IMF said.

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