The authorities of Afghanistan are struggling to implement the lockdowns for preventing the spread of the deadly coronavirus or COVID-19 in a province bordering Iran as the outbreak is getting bigger in that area due to a huge number of Afghan returnees and men refusing to abide by the social distancing rules.

Herat, which is the third-largest city of the nation and a very much crowded province in Eastern Afghanistan, has recorded high number of coronavirus cases. The nation is grappling due to the acute shortages of testing facilities during a time when the clashes between the Taliban and the government forces are still showing no decline.

Medical and security crisis has worsened in the province

Coronavirus
Pixabay

The medical and security crisis has worsened in the province as thousands of men continue to ignore social distancing rules and attended a mass religious gathering at the start of the holy month of Ramadan. "We request people to follow the rules but they just don't listen, the religious preachers are not obeying too," said Jailani Farhad, a spokesman for Herat's provincial governor.

Verified photographs and videos shared on social media of the event organised last week on a vacant plot of land highlighted the challenges faced by officials to prevent gatherings organised by powerful religious preachers.

"We request people to take the virus seriously, for God's sake it is not a joke," Farhad said. As of April 26, Afghanistan reported 1,531 cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, and 50 deaths, but international observers and medics on the ground believe the real number of infections could be much higher.

Around 390 infected people are from Herat province

At least 390 infected people are from Herat province, which recorded eight deaths, with the majority of positive cases found among Afghan returnees from Iran, said health ministry officials in capital city, Kabul. Up to 2,000 Afghans cross the border from Iran, a global coronavirus hot spot, every day into Herat, where there are just 10 ventilators and at least 10 provincial doctors are already sick from the coronavirus.

The country's health-care system, hollowed out by decades of war, urgently needs as much as $2 billion to fight the epidemic and other medical crisis, said a senior western diplomat on condition of anonymity.

(With agency inputs)