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Afghanistan Flash Update: Daily Brief: COVID-19, No. 19 (25 March 2020)

Countries: Afghanistan, Iran (Islamic Republic of) Sources: World Health Organization, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Key Messages: People confirmed to have COVID-19: 75 (Source: Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan) Deaths from COVID-19: 1 People recovered: 2 Key concerns: Border crossing areas, social distancing and movement restrictions, strategic messaging and rumour management Situation Overview: According to the WHO Global Dashboard, as of 25 March 375,498 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed and 16,362 deaths have been reported across 195 countries. On 11 March, WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic. Physical distancing measures can help to slow transmission of the virus and reduce the burden on the health system. But to suppress and control epidemics, countries must isolate, test, treat and trace. As the virus moves to lowincome countries, WHO is deeply concerned about the impact it could have among populations with high HIV prevalence, or among malnourished children the latter being of particular concern in Afghanistan. Travel restrictions by countries are changing rapidly and should be monitored on daily basis. Wide commercial flight suspensions to Kabul are now coming into force and the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) is investigating options for a possible international air-bridge service, although this would be dependent on funding and other considerations. A total of 75 people are now confirmed to have the virus in 12 provinces Hirat, Samangan, Balkh, Daikundi, Farah, Kapisa, Badghis, Logar, Zabul, Kandahar, Ghazni and Kabul. Most people with the virus have a travel history outside Afghanistan. The cases are predominantly men, although one woman has now tested positive. Afghanistan has recorded its first fatality from the virus. A 40-year old man has died in Balkh Province. He had no prior travel history. Contact tracing for the people confirmed with COVID-19 is ongoing. To date, testing has been small scale which may account for the relatively low number of confirmed cases given the high number of border crossings with Iran where there are thousands of cases. Distancing yourself from others is the best protection against the further spread of the virus however there are concerns that is not being widely practiced around the country. The Hirat Provincial Governor announced in a public statement a restriction on movement due to COVID-19 starting today (25 March) along with plans to disinfect Hirat city. Further details on accessing essential services will be shared shortly. The implications of these measures on humanitarian operations and cross border movements are being assessed. On 14 March, the Government of Afghanistan also announced that all schools would be closed for an initial period of four weeks through to 18 April 2020. The Provincial Governor of Nimroz convened a meeting today in Nimroz to announce quarantine measures for the city of Zaranj including the closure of all non-essential businesses.


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