Officials of Herat province said on Wednesday that more than 15,000 Afghans have returned to Afghanistan from Iran by crossing the Islam Qala border in the past two days to avoid coronavirus.
“From February 20 until now, 30,000 Afghans returned to Afghanistan voluntarily,” said Ahmad Jawed Nadam, head of the refugees and repatriation directorate in Herat.
Five out of seven were reported in Herat and two others reported in Samangan province.
According to local officials, the infected persons returned from Iran.
The people who returned to Afghanistan said that they had left Iran because of the outbreak of the coronavirus and because of the increasing food prices in Iran.
“We escaped from the coronavirus and went to Tehran. We were quarantined in Tehran,” said Shiba Daoudi, a returned Afghan. “Prices were very high. We can’t afford to buy food.”
“They (Iranian officials) quarantined two boys at an unknown place. No one knows where they are,” said Mohammad Salim, another returned Afghan.
“I came from Iran’s Karaj city because of the coronavirus,” said Hayatullah, another returned Afghan.
Meanwhile, officials from the Herat public health directorate said they are concerned about the repatriation of Afghans from Iran.
“We have five positive cases of coronavirus, all were living in Iran. The return of the Afghans will cause a transfer of the virus also,” said Mohammad Asif Kabir, deputy head of Herat's public health directorate.
Abdul Qayum Rahimi, governor of Herat province, said that efforts are underway to reduce the cross-border flow.
“We have taken measures at the local level. We will prevent people from going to Iran starting tomorrow. Preventing people traveling from Iran is not in our authority,” said Rahimi, saying that is was the central government that must close borders.
President Ghani ordered the Ministry of Public Health to increase public awareness and to take serious measures-- especially at the border with Iran-- to fight the spread of the coronavirus, said the Presidential Palace
According to the statement, Ghani called for the prevention of all big gatheringsm including Nowruz festival (New year festival).
Based on the numbers of the Ministry of Public Health, seven positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Afghanistan.