Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, September 24th, 2020

Afghanistan’s Particular Susceptibility to COVID-19

The upheaval caused by the novel coronavirus around the world is highly critical and needs a worldwide campaign against it. Peopled are highly worried about the threat the COVID-19 has posed to the world, including Afghanistan, as the situation has been declared a pandemic.
The people of Afghanistan are particularly concerned about both the epidemic virus as well as the adverse effect it will put on individuals’ income. Both the stock market and the exchange rate have been shaky at best over the past week.
Who will be looking after those with limited incomes? How will the poor individuals cope with the rise in prices if this kind of panic buying goes on? Does the government have any strategy in place other than fining the store-keepers who sell the goods at higher price out of fear from border closure?
The government has not introduced any preventive measures to combat the spread of the disease other than shutting down schools and universities. The fact that the government has closed schools, universities, and educational institutes is a step in the right direction. But with this closure, thousands are likely to have no ability to make a living. The small store-keepers, street vendors and the daily wage earners will be hit hard. Worst, if they develop symptoms of the disease, they will have less money to come to hospitals and low incentive to get tested.
A number of people underestimate the cases in the country. Meanwhile, there are many who live in crowded communities, where social distancing is simply not possible. How will these people, who lack the luxury of self-isolation receive care?
The problem with coronavirus is that unlike terrorist groups it is not ideological or discriminatory in terms of its attack, which is what makes it more contagious. To put it in the worlds of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, “COVID-19 is our common enemy. We must declare war on this virus. That means countries have a responsibility to great up, step up and scale up.” He added that the disease could cost the world economy at least $1 trillion this year, and maybe further. He urged for global cooperation to revitalize economies, expand public investment, boost trade, and ensure targeted support for the people and communities most affected by the virus or more vulnerable to the negative economic impacts.
There are things that the government should do, for example, be honest and transparent about the number of cases, provide a transparent and coordinated strategy among large cities and provinces, and increase testing sites that offer free services for testing. It is true that all 35 and so million cannot be tested, but those who feel the symptoms, have traveled to the countries affected especially Iran, coming in contact with others, etc. should be able to get a test. Testing should also be facilitated in sites that go beyond large hospitals in big cities.
The government’s approach to the virus seems similar to its approach to the smog crisis: ignore it long enough and it will ultimately disappears.
The good news is that it is not too late to get a handle on things.
The government and citizens have to come to terms with the truth. The COVID-19 is not some minor disturbance, but a potentially fatal disease. If the current trends continue in the country and preventive measures are not taken, the virus will take large toll on people and will be more fatal than terrorism.
The government has to fight the misperception that the virus is not something to be concerned about if you are young and healthy. This is a reckless take on a serious and fatal issue. If you are young and healthy the chances of a fatality from the virus is low, but the chances of infecting other people are high. Thus, it can be fatal to others. Everyone must practice social distancing. The less interactions there are between people, the less exchange of the virus there is.
Meanwhile, private hospitals should be equipped with testing kits and check the patients as soon as they enter the hospitals. If the doors of hospitals are open without precautionary measures, the potentially affected individuals will cause serious danger to the health of others.
Overall, Afghanistan is highly vulnerable since it lacks both professional physicians comparing to those of its neighboring countries as well as medical equipment. In the meantime, the weak and unstable economy adds to the problem. If borders are closed, the high price of commodities and the low economic level of the citizens will have horrible consequences on the country’s economy and people’s life.

Moreover, the international community and its neighboring countries, mainly China, should support Afghanistan in combating the virus. If Afghanistan is left alone at the current sensitive time, the death toll will be alarmingly high.