Afghanistan cases top 10,000 as Taliban announces ceasefire over Eid

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The number of confirmed coronavirus case in Afghanistan has topped 10,000 amid continued surges of transmission in the capital, Kabul, and Herat – while the country woke up to a rare period of calm after recent violence.

Around half of the tests done in a 24-hour period came back positive across the country. The health ministry tested 1,206 suspected patients, of whom 584 came out positive. Two patients also died overnight, taking the total number of confirmed infections to 10,582 and the death toll to 218. There have been 1,075 recoveries.

Most of the new infections were reported in Kabul, with 324 cases coming back positive from 571 tests. Kabul is the country’s worst-affected area for transmissions, with 3,784 confirmed cases and 29 deaths.

The eastern province of Nangarhar and western province of Herat, which have both seen surges in the number of new infections in recent days, recorded 135 new cases combined. Herat is the country’s worst-affected area for deaths, with 35 patients losing their lives to Covid-19.

Sunday is the first day of Eid in Afghanistan and concerns are high as, despite the government-mandated lockdown, people continue to break the regulations. According to a Guardian tally, Afghanistan recorded 3,920 new cases in the seven days before Eid – a record high.

Wahid Majroh, the country’s deputy health minister, warned the nation on Saturday that the “catastrophe” of coronavirus is spreading across the country and said the nation has only two options for Eid: “You either stay at home and safe, or go out to visit your relatives and friends – which [can] cause everyone in your family [to become] infected”.

He said the ministry is concerned about people breaking lockdown rules. “When people were heeding, the daily number of infections was was just about 250 – but now, as the people continue to break the rules and we test more, the number is rising.”

Majroh, who escaped an assassination attempt unharmed on Saturday, said the ministry is preparing more hospital beds for Covid-19 patients. Early last week, he said the country had run out of hospital beds for them in most areas.

Meanwhile, Afghans woke up to a rare period of calm as the Taliban announced a ceasefire for the three days of Eid. Its leadership instructed fellow fighters to stop their “offensive operations against the enemy … and defend only if attacked”. The Taliban’s move is only second ceasefire in around 19 years of war; they made a similar announcement in 2018.

“All Mujahedeen should be aware that nobody can go the enemy’s control areas and from the opposite side, nobody is allowed to get into Mujahedeen’s areas,” the Taliban said in a statement. The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, welcomed the move and said he has instructed Afghan forces to “comply with the three-day truce and to defend only if attacked”.