The Nawroz festival, which is held every year in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif on the solar new year and usually draws thousands of people, was canceled this year over the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
A customary ceremony was held at the mosque, but the event took place on Thursday night and was not open to the public or journalists, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, said Atiqullah Ansari, the director at the Blue Mosque.
“Over 50,000 people usually attend the festival, but the area around the Blue Mosque was empty this year and there were up to 5,000 guests in Balkh this year,” Ansari said.
The Ministry of Public Health on Friday reported two new cases of COVID-19 in Herat, bringing the total to 24. One case has been reported in Balkh.
“All public gatherings have been banned including the Nawroz festive,” said Mohammad Bashir, the deputy governor of Balkh.
Last year, the festival was attended by President Ghani along with thousands of others also celebrating the new year.
“We are not allowed to go to the Blue Mosque,” said Mohammad Sami, a Baghlan resident who had traveled to Balkh.
“Security forces have closed the Blue Mosque, and no one is allowed to go there,” said Arif, a Kabul resident who traveled to Balkh for the Nawroz celebration.