March 7, 2020 / 7:54 AM / 22 days ago

Afghanistan's confirmed coronavirus cases rises to 4 - health ministry spokesman

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan’s health ministry said on Saturday that the number of confirmed case of coronavirus in the country had jumped to four.

“Three positive cases of coronavirus have been registered in western Herat province of Afghanistan,” Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health told Reuters, adding that of the 36 cases tested in Kabul, 33 had come back negative.

Herat borders neighbouring Iran, which is one of the countries worst affected by the coronavirus outside of China, with more than 4,000 cases and dozens of deaths.

Mayar expressed concern about the vulnerability of Afghanistan’s border with Iran. Millions of Afghans live and work in the neighbouring country and many are facing increasing political and economic pressure to return.

Mayar said the cost of testing would be a strain on Afghanistan’s resource-strapped health system in an economy damaged by years of conflict. Each test kit - which would test around 50 cases - cost around $1600, he said.

Afghanistan’s head of disease surveillance Sayed Attaullah Sayedzai told Reuters earlier in the week that the country had double checked its testing accuracy by sending tests to the Netherlands and had set up isolation centres in health centres around the country. He added there were suspected cases in six provinces in addition to Herat.

Reporting by Abdul Qadir Seqiqi in Kabul; additional reporting by Storay Karimi in Herat; writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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