Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Authorities continuing to impose COVID-19 restrictions across Afghanistan through at least early September.

Alert Begins 01 Sep 2020 11:15 AM UTC
Alert Expires 15 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC 

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Movement, commercial, and travel disruptions; possible protests

Authorities are maintaining ongoing restrictions across Afghanistan through at least early September to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Officials are enforcing nationwide movement controls that prohibit nonessential outdoor activity with the strictest enforcement of measures is taking place in major cities such as Kabul and COVID-19 high-risk areas. Authorities require citizens to stay at home when possible, maintain social distancing of at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) with others, and must wear face coverings in public. Some commercial venues are allowed to operate, although facilities including sports and music venues, museums, and gyms remain closed. Some schools have reopened. Private vehicles are allowed to travel with a maximum of four passengers. Regional variation is probable, dependent on local caseload. Additional measures may be introduced in the coming days to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Security forces will almost certainly deploy to enforce regulations, though adherence to restrictions has reportedly varied in many areas. Disruptions to business operations, public transportation, government office operations, consulate services for foreign nationals, and shortages of some goods, either due to delivery delays or panic-buying, are likely to persist in the medium term. Traders and labor groups may protest, mainly outside government offices in cities, to demand a relaxation of measures; clashes are possible if police forcibly break up such rallies.

Travel Restrictions
Officials are lifting international travel restrictions. Land border crossings with Iran and Pakistan are opening for trade and limited passenger transit, as of Sept. 1. Afghanistan recently reopened the Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan. Afghan traders wishing to enter Iran must produce certification of virus-free status. However, violence has occurred - especially at the Chaman border with Pakistan - due to occasional civilian protests over entry and transporters' demonstrations against processing delays and rule changes. Authorities advise persons arriving in Afghanistan with no symptoms to self-quarantine for 14 days, and persons displaying symptoms to contact the Ministry of Public Health. Limited international and domestic flights are available, though multiple airlines continue suspending operations via Hamid Karzai International Airport (KBL).

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the government correspond with similar actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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