The Ministry of Public Health opened a coronavirus testing center in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, Balkh province, with the capacity of testing 30 cases a day.
The head of Balkh's public health directorate, Khalilullah Hekmati, said the capacity of the center will increase to 200 cases a day within the next one week.
Right now, the country’s COVID-19 testing centers have a total capacity of performing 600 tests a day: 400 in Kabul, 100 in Herat and 100 in Nangarhar.
“We were sending samples to Kabul before this and the transportation was itself a risk,” Hekmati said.
On March 30, Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said the capacity of health facilities in the country will be increased to 1,000 tests a day in a week.
This comes as four people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Balkh. Of the four patients, one has died, one has recovered and two are undergoing treatment, according to the Public Health Ministry. The total confirmed cases of the virus in Afghanistan is 299.
Balkh officials said the city of Mazar is under partial lockdown as public places, stores and training centers are closed.
“Drug addicts, who are one of the biggest challenges for COVID-19 efforts, should be shifted to a certain place within a week,” Balkh governor Mohammad Ishaq Rahguzar said.
Balkh residents said they will stay at home, but there are many people who have no option but to go out and find work to find bread for their families.
“Those who are coming to the central roundabout (in Mazar) are concerned about their daily life,” said Ghulam Sakhi, a Balkh resident.
“People cannot go out for fear of the coronavirus. What they will eat?” asked Qais, a Balkh resident.