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June 3, 2020

Afghan testing lapse suggests growing and hidden coronavirus crisis

World

June 3, 2020

KABUL: Fewer than one in 10 of coronavirus test samples collected daily in Afghanistan are being processed, officials said on Tuesday, and of those more than 30% are consistently testing positive, suggesting a high and hidden number of infections.The official number of COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan is relatively low, with 16,509 confirmed infections and 270 deaths.

But that is out from 40,950 tests processed in a population of more than 37 million. Deputy Health Minister Feda Mohammed Paikan told Reuters the ministry can process only 1,300 to 1,500 of around 20,000 samples each day, due to limited equipment and processing facilities.

There is no exact number for the total number of samples taken to date. Paikan said the untested samples were coded and kept in freezers. “We process the samples based on how soon we receive them so basically it is by turn,” he told Reuters. According to health ministry data, an average of 1,500 tests are processed daily and around 500 test positive.

On Tuesday, 759 tested positive from 1,322 cases processed. Afghanistan, beset by decades of conflict, a virtually non-existent healthcare system, malnutrition and other vulnerabilities, is facing a potential disaster, another deputy health minister warned. “Every street will witness dead bodies,” said Wahid Majroh, if people do not heed safety warnings such as social distancing.