Officials in Afghanistan said Monday a patient who recently visited neighboring Iran has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in isolation in a hospital in the western border province of Herat.
The revelation comes as the outbreak of the disease, known as COVID-19, has killed at least 12 people in Iran and infected dozens more since last Wednesday when the country reported its first case
Afghan minister of public health, Ferozuddin Feroz, told reporters in Kabul a state of emergency has been declared in Herat in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. "I ask people to try to stay at home and restrict their movements,” he said.
The Afghan government on Saturday suspended all air and ground travel to and from Iran, hours after authorities in the border province detected three suspected coronavirus cases. It also halted the import of Iranian poultry products, mainly chicken and eggs.
Feroz said one of the three cases had been confirmed. The three Afghans had returned from the Iranian holy city of Qom, the center of the outbreak.
Critics fear a coronavirus outbreak could pose a serious challenge for authorities in Afghanistan, where years of war and corruption have turned an already poor healthcare system, to which many Afghans have limited or no access, into one of the world’s worst.
The turmoil-hit country lacks quarantine facilities and protocols, trained health care personnel and medical supplies.
Iranian fatalities are the largest number of reported coronavirus-linked deaths outside China, where the disease was first detected in late December.
Tehran announced on Saturday a weeklong closing of schools, universities and cultural centers across 14 Iranian provinces in an effort to curb the coronavirus.
Pakistan has also temporarily closed its border with Iran.