KABUL: Afghanistan’s is racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a deadly third surge of COVID-19 worsens, a senior health official told The Associated Press in an interview on Saturday.
The government is installing oxygen supply plants in 10 provinces where the increase in COVID cases in some areas is hovering around 65 percent, health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigir Nazari said.
By WHO recommendations, anything higher than 5 percent shows officials aren’t testing widely enough, allowing the virus to spread unchecked. Afghanistan carries out barely 4,000 tests a day and often much less.
Afghanistan’s 24-hour infection count has also continued its upward climb from 1,500 at the end of May when the health ministry was already calling the surge “a crisis,” to more than 2,300 this week. Since the pandemic outbreak, Afghanistan is reporting 101,906 positive cases and 4,122 deaths. But those figures are likely a massive undercount, registering only deaths in hospitals — not the far greater numbers who die at home.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan received 900 oxygen cylinders from Iran on Saturday, part of 3,800 cylinders Tehran promised to deliver to Kabul last week. The shipment was delayed by Iran’s presidential elections, said Nazari.
Afghanistan has even run out of empty cylinders, receiving a delivery of 1,000 last week from Uzbekistan.