Strict Eid lockdown urged as virus cases spike in Afghanistan

Health officials say the biggest challenge has been making people understand the dangers of the new disease. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Strict Eid lockdown urged as virus cases spike in Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan's official death toll stands at 216, but experts fear it could spike in the coming weeks
  • The country's healthcare system is ill-equipped to handle a larger outbreak

KABUL: A spike in coronavirus infections Saturday has doubled the number of cases in Afghanistan in recent days, forcing authorities to call for a “strict lockdown” during Eid, especially in the capital Kabul.
Health officials said the country now had 9,998 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 782 people testing positive in the past 24 hours — the highest single-day jump reported in the country so far.
The number of total cases has doubled in just 10 days, raising fears of a wider outbreak across the country.
The surge in cases comes as Afghanistan grapples with rising violence that has diverted vital attention and resources away from the fight against the disease.
“We are concerned that if the lockdown is not imposed properly, the number of cases will get out of control and beyond our capacity to treat or test them,” deputy health minister Waheed Majroh told reporters Saturday.
“We want a strict lockdown,” he said ahead of Eid Al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Muslim holy fasting month.
Kabul, home to more than five million people, is the epicenter of the disease, with 3,460 cases.
“There will be strict restrictions on unnecessary movements in Kabul,” the interior ministry said.
“All the roads in Kabul will be closed during Eid.”
While the official total death toll remains low — 216 — experts say the number of fatalities and infections will soar as more tests are conducted.
The virus is believed to have arrived in Afghanistan via the western province of Herat as tens of thousands of migrants returned from neighboring Iran, the region’s worst-hit country.
Authorities imposed a nationwide lockdown soon after initial cases were reported, but residents have largely ignored it.
Often impoverished Afghans — many of them surviving on daily wages — are seen venturing out of their homes to seek work rather than stay indoors.
Health officials say the biggest challenge has been making people understand the dangers of the new disease.
 


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

Updated 39 min 31 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.