Coronavirus Outbreak; People’s Carelessness Makes the Situation Difficult for the Health Sector

Unprecedented coronavirus increase in the country has raised concerns about health. Sources at the Ministry of Public Health point to the alarming situation in the Covid-19 patient centers, especially in Afghan-Japan Hospital. The Ministry of Public Health also states that more critical days are ahead and that the number of people with coronavirus is likely to increase to several thousand a day. According to officials, although the necessary awareness has been raised at the community level, people are now ignoring the virus, regardless of its scientific dimension. The Health Ministry now has all the options to fight a possible crisis, but officials say they would rather reduce the severity of coronavirus with the help of the public. Currently, according to official statistics, about a third of coronavirus tests in the country are positive, and the death toll has exceeded 3,000. For their part, health experts believe that border crossings, especially those coming from India, should be stopped and the health sector should be prepared for a serious Covid-19 battle by using the available facilities and human resources in the public and private sectors. These experts suggest how public awareness should be assessed to determine why health advice is being ignored despite being made public.

At the same time as citizens ignoring Covid-19, the third wave of the virus has put the health sector under serious scrutiny. About 30% of people who take the PCR test now are positive. Moreover, most citizens who are infected have not been tested. The Ministry of Public Health announced on Tuesday, June 1, that it had registered 1,045 Covid-19 patients after testing 3,614 cases. In addition to recording these cases, the condition of inpatients in Covid-19 treatment centers is also described as worrying, especially for patients in Afghan-Japan Hospital. According to official figures, at least 33 Covid-19 patients died overnight. With this record, the death toll from Covid-19 has reached 3,077.

Officials at the Ministry of Public Health, however, say they are preparing for even more difficult days. Osman Taheri, the deputy spokesperson for the ministry, told 8 Subh on Tuesday, June1, that according to their scientific reasoning, the virus is considered “contagious”, “dangerous” and “deadly” while informing the public, but the public relying on their experience of being asymptomatic despite coming into contact with the virus, pay no heed to health advice. According to him, 80% of patients have no symptoms at all, and people with Covid-19 can also be carriers, and went on to call this a “serious problem” and a “mystery”. Mr. Taheri added that although the Afghan-Japan Hospital has more than 150 beds, they have also built dozens of more beds for difficult days in different parts of Kabul, including Qasaba, Arzan Qimat and Dasht Barchi.

According to Mr. Taheri, the ministry has other forecasts and is preparing for them. Osman Taheri added that the third wave of Covid-19 has not yet reached its peak and it is likely that the number of patients will reach several thousand in one day. “If the people still do not comply, the facilities of the Ministry of Public Health will reach their limit,” he added. “And if it goes beyond that limit, the Ministry of Public Health will face a challenge. So before we reach that limit, people have to cooperate in fighting the virus.” According to Mr. Taheri, the ministry sends serious warnings to the people through the media, but the citizens do not pay attention to it, and this is a matter of concern for the health sector. In addition, Mr. Taheri stated that 700 doses of Chinese-assisted vaccines will soon be provided to the health sector. Although Afghanistan, with the help of the World Bank and the Asian Bank, has the budget to purchase 16 million vaccines, there are currently not enough vaccines on the market.

Health Experts: Method of awareness raising must be evaluated   

As the situation of Covid-19 worsens in the country, health experts believe that the method of raising awareness about the virus in Afghanistan needs to be evaluated. Nowruz Haqmal, a professor at the University of London and a health expert, told 8 Subh that the Indian-variant Covid-19 was a concern and that specific issues needed to be addressed to control the situation. He said the main cause of death for some patients was not only Covid-19, but also other underlying diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Thus, the health expert clarified that the process of providing normal health services should continue and the supply process should not be damaged. According to Nowruz Haghmal, the private sector should be more involved in the process, but the process of PCR testing should also be monitored.

He also clarified that flights, especially with India, should be stopped or significantly reduced. Mr. Haqmal said it would be better to present a clear plan to the international community to provide funding for difficult days because the situation may get worse. He added that by doing so, the health sector could be revived, which would mean that even after the outbreak, instead of spending money abroad, it would be spent at home. Nowruz Haqmal also says that there is a need to increase domestic production and, in addition to making a use of resources, medical university students and pharmacy students should be involved in the fight against Covid-19 instead of suspending the operation of educational institutions, and help prepare the necessary materials, including medicines, masks, etc.

The health worker also stressed the importance of the capacity and quality of the tests, saying that even the PCR tests performed needed to be reviewed. Thus, Nowruz Haqmal said that the provision of Covid-19 services should be integrated with other services so that most health campaigns, including polio, are not stopped. According to him, Afghanistan should identify the shortcomings of the health sector at this stage and even evaluate the public awareness process to determine why citizens, despite being aware of the situation, do not take the recommendations seriously and do not cooperate with the health sector.

It is worth mentioning that nearly 500,000 Covid-19 tests have been performed in the country so far. After the tests, about 76,000 cases of Covid-19 were identified. Currently, according to statistics, Kabul, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Balkh and Herat have the highest number of active Covid-19 patients. This statistic has increased from about two thousand people in the last two months to 13,218 people.