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10 Million Afghans Likely Infected and Recovered From COVID-19: Survey

Patients are connected to oxygen tanks at the Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, for COVID-19 patients in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 18, 2020.

An official survey conducted in Afghanistan finds the coronavirus have likely infected nearly a third of the country's population, or roughly 10 million people.

The Afghan health ministry released the estimates Wednesday, saying they are based on antibody tests on around 9,500 people across the war-shattered country.

Acting Health Minister,Ahmad Jawad Osmani told a news conference in Kabul the survey showed 31.5 percent of Afghanistan's population has been infected by COVID-19 "and they have recovered.

Osmani noted that 53 percent of the capital city's nearly five million residents have contracted the coronavirus.

An official tally of infections as of Friday stood at around 37,000, with nearly 1,300 deaths, since the outbreak hit Afghanistan in late February. But the low figures are attributed to the turmoil-hit country's extremely limited testing capacity.

Osmani said the survey has been conducted with the help of the World Health Organization and Johns Hopkins University.

"We will use the findings of this survey to better prepare ourselves for a possible second wave," he said, adding a mortality rate survey is underway.

Afghan officials have said migrants returning from neighboring Iran imported the coronavirus. Iran has been one of the worst-hit countries in the world.

"Afghanistan is on the edge of potential health, social and economic catastrophes caused by COVID-19 as the disease places a crippling burden on one of the 10 most fragile states in the world," the International Federation of Red Cross warned last month.

"The real toll of the pandemic on the Afghan population is expected to be much higher and remains under-reported due to limited testing and weak health systems," it added.