As a freight train carrying 500 tons of food aid from neighboring Uzbekistan docked in northern Afghanistan on Friday, official figures on virus patients by the health ministry indicated the pandemic was making inroads in the landlocked country’s capital of Kabul.
Dr. Waheedullah Mayar, an adviser on strategic affairs at the Health Ministry, told Anadolu Agency that COVID-19 has now entered the critical epidemic phase in Kabul by infecting citizens with no track record of travel to epicenters.
"We are more vulnerable than many other nations on the planet due to numerous factors such as the socio-economic and political instability and insecurity," he said.
A day before Uzbekistan’s "Train of Generosity" brought flour, rice and basic needs to Afghanistan, a Chinese aerial consignment brought much-needed medical supplies to Kabul, including ventilators, COVID-19 testing kits and masks for frontline health workers.
The World Bank pitched in with a $100.4 million fast-tracked grant for Afghanistan as it fights the pandemic.
Data compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University shows there are 299 active infections in Afghanistan as 6 had died and 10 have recovered.
Flagship endeavors in uphill battle
Health experts believe the relatively low figures are indicative of the fragile health system’s limitations in terms of testing for suspected cases.
Former director of public health Kabir Saifi said the actual numbers could be much higher.
"Firstly, there are no resources and expertise to deal with a challenge at this level. Secondly, there are still doubts, concerns and non-seriousness among the masses towards the preventive measures, which is resulting in underreporting," he said.
With meager resources, the government is working around the clock on a 100-bed field hospital dedicated to coronavirus patients with an ambitious goal to have it completed in three weeks.
Fearing a spillover of COVID-19 patients on the eastern border with Pakistan where the main Torkham crossing point remains closed with thousands of stranded on both sides, the government has already set-up a quarantine camp.
According to the administration in Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan, all suspected individuals will be kept at the isolation center for at least two weeks.
There are 2.8 million documented and undocumented Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, who can be deported anytime.