Thirty-seven people potentially infected with Covid-19 escaped from a hospital on Monday in the Afghan province of Herat, bordering Iran, one of the countries most affected by the pandemic.
“Helped by relatives,” they fled the hospital “after hitting doctors and breaking windows,” said Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the health ministry. They “were getting impatient because the results of their tests still had not arrived from Kabul after more than five days,” said Ebrahim Mohammad, a public health official at Herat. Two of them had already been tested positive for Covid-19, he added.
Many Afghans have returned from Iran
The under-equipped Afghan health services are under severe strain on the border with Iran, one of the countries most affected by the virus, with 853 dead since February 19. According to Jawed Nadim, the head of the department for the repatriation of refugees in Herat, nearly 70,000 Afghans have returned from Iran in the past 20 days, a figure which has risen sharply in particular because of the Covid-19.
For now, health professionals “just ask (people returning from Iran) a few questions and take their temperature,” he told AFP, acknowledging that “this is not not enough “.
If Kabul had banned travel to Iran last month, land crossings immediately reopened to allow Afghans to return home or visit their families.
21 official cases but the reality would be worse
On Monday, Minister of Public Health Ferozuddin Feroz announced that the government would build a 300-bed hospital in Herat to deal with the pandemic. Twenty-one cases of coronavirus have so far been reported in Afghanistan, most of them in Herat. This figure could however hide a much worse reality due to the extremely limited screening and care capacities in this country which has been at war for 40 years.