By: Masouda Qarizada
KABUL: In some areas of capital, Kabul city on Saturday the roads were packed with cars as citizens defied the government lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Only in a few areas were roads vacant of pedestrians and cars and businesses closed. Some people in the city criticized the government for its efforts to address the spread of the virus. There are some residents who urged their fellow compatriots to respect the lockdown and avoid coming out of their homes. The government announced lockdown in the capital city to prevent spread of the fatal disease. “If we don’t take corona seriously, our message is that corona will take us, seriously,” Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said at a press conference in Kabul on Friday.
The outbreak has killed three and infected 116 so far, with authorities worried that the numbers could rise exponentially if preventive measures are not taken on time. “In case steps are not taken, more than 16 million of the 35 million population of Afghanistan will be affected by corona in the coming months,” Feroz said. An estimated 6 million people live in Kabul alone.Interior Minister Masoud Andarabi, who was speaking at the same briefing, said that a joint operation would be launched to crack down on drug addicts in Kabul as “they can be vulnerable to the virus and may become a means of spreading it.” He further urged residents to observe the curfew and not to leave their homes, except for health and security reasons, or for the purchase of food supplies. “We request all citizens, if you don’t have an urgent need, don’t leave your homes, so you stay safe, and also Kabul citizens stay safe,” he said. The curb includes the closure of all restaurants, hotels, traditional hammams (bathhouses), schools, wedding halls; and government offices — except for those in the medical, security, and municipal sectors. Residents, for their part, welcomed the move which they said was “essential for us and the society at large.”Rafiullah Taj, a 27-year-old tailor, said that while the curfew deprives him of his daily earnings, he would still observe the lockdown because of the threat of the virus. During an emergency meeting summoned at the presidential palace on Friday, President Ashraf Ghani said that observing the restrictions was vital.“Since the risk is increasing, at this stage, we have to take serious measures because so far, no vaccine or medicines have been produced to combat the virus. For a limited period, we have to accept restrictions, the result of which will be the welfare of the society,” he said. As a next step, plans are in place to extend the lockdown to other cities, including Herat, which lies near the border with Iran. Authorities suspect Afghan refugees who recently returned from Iran contracted the virus there.