Afghans throng markets ahead of Muslim holiday despite coronavirus fears

People shop for festive goods in preparation for Eid Al-Fitr in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 21, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 May 2020

Afghans throng markets ahead of Muslim holiday despite coronavirus fears

  • Afghanistan had recorded 9,216 cases of COVID-19
  • The highest number of cases has been in Kabul

KABUL: Kabul’s markets were teeming on Friday in the countdown to the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr as Afghans disregarded government safety guidelines to contain rising coronavirus infections across the country.
Afghanistan had recorded 9,216 cases of COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the virus, and 205 deaths as of Friday, the health ministry said. The highest number of cases has been in Kabul, a city of six million that has been under a lockdown of varying intensity since March 28.
“It’s almost two months that Afghans have been in quarantine and surely everyone has suffered a lot during this period,” Ghulam Hussain, a Kabul resident at one busy market, told Reuters.
Prices for everything in the market have shot up during the lockdown, he added.
Two of the largest markets in the heart of Kabul visited by Reuters were packed, with most shoppers not wearing masks or gloves and not observing social distancing rules.
“I admit that everyone should observe the hygiene (guidelines) and follow the government and doctors’ advice, but what about the attacks and killings that are happening in our country and claim the lives of our people daily?” asked Abdul Saleem, another shopper.
While there has been a partial relaxation of the lockdown, with Kabul’s local administration also announcing fresh guidelines for residents in the lead-up to Eid on Friday, people have been ignoring appeals to respect social distancing.
The Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, will be observed either on Saturday or Sunday in Afghanistan, subject to the sighting of the moon.
Most shoppers visiting markets were looking for dried foods to make traditional Eid dishes and new clothes to mark the occasion.


Proteins in COVID-19 patients’ blood could predict severity of illness, study finds

Updated 34 min 57 sec ago

Proteins in COVID-19 patients’ blood could predict severity of illness, study finds

  • The markers could lead to the development of a test that would help doctors predict how ill a patient might get
  • Could also provide new targets for the development of potential treatments for the disease

LONDON: Scientists have found 27 key proteins in the blood of people infected with COVID-19 which they say could act as predictive biomarkers for how ill a patient could become with the disease.
In research published in the journal Cell Systems on Tuesday, scientists at Britain’s Francis Crick Institute and Germany’s Charite Universitaetsmedizin Berlin found the proteins are present in different levels in COVID-19 patients, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
The markers could lead to the development of a test that would help doctors predict how ill a patient might get when infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, they said, and could also provide new targets for the development of potential treatments for the disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 374,000 people worldwide and infected more than 6.7 million.
Doctors and scientists say those infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, respond differently — with some developing no symptoms at all, while others need to be hospitalized and others suffer fatal infection.
“A test to help doctors predict whether a COVID-19 patient is likely to become critical or not would be invaluable,” said Christoph Messner, an expert in molecular biology at the Crick Institute who co-led the research.
He said such tests would help doctors decide how best manage the disease for each patient, as well as identify those most at risk of needing hospital treatment or intensive care.
Messner’s team used a method called mass spectrometry to rapidly test for the presence and quantity of various proteins in blood plasma from 31 COVID-19 patients at Berlin’s Charite hospital. They then validated their results in 17 other patients with COVID-19 at the same hospital, and in 15 healthy people who acted as controls.
Three of the key proteins identified were linked with interleukin IL-6, a protein known to cause inflammation and also a known marker for severe COVID-19 symptoms.