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)
Short Url
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.
 


“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

Updated 31 May 2020

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

  • Troops can go in ’very quickly,’ Trump says

CHICAGO: The firestorm of protest, arson and looting that has consumed the US for five days began at the counter of an Arab American grocery store.

Staff working for Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, called Minneapolis police after George Floyd, 46, twice tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase.

Officers who arrested Floyd held him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as he pleaded that he could not breathe. He lost consciousness and died later in hospital. One officer has been charged with third-degree murder and further charges are expected.

“What took place outside … was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh told US TV. “The murder and execution was something done by the police, and it was an abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”

Abumayyaleh said he knew Floyd as a customer, and as someone who was always pleasant. He did not find out until the following morning that the man had died. “We were all outraged,” he said, and Floyd “may not have even known that the bill was counterfeit.”

The store owner and his sons, Samir, Adam and Mahmoud, have gone into hiding in the face of a wave of threats against them on social media. They took down their store’s Facebook page and its landline phone has been disconnected.

Minneapolis has more than 50 Arab- and Muslim-owned stores mostly north of where the incident occurred, all operating under statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Arab store owners said they feared speaking out publicly about the incident.

An unidentified man who answered the phone at one Arab-owned store told Arab News that both the killing of Floyd and vandalism against businesses “is wrong.”

Since Floyd died last Tuesday, protesters have vandalized, looted and burned down more than 200 stores in Minneapolis. On Friday and Saturday, the violence spread to New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte North Carolina.

In Minnesota, protesters maintained a daily vigil in front of the Cup Foods store at 3759 Chicago Avenue, painting walls and the street with murals and graffiti in memory of Floyd. After four nights of confrontations in the city, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the state’s national guard on Saturday for the first time since the Second World War.

US President Donald Trump said troops could be deployed if local authorities requested their help. “We could have our military there very quickly,” he said.