Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: International flights resume in Afghanistan as of July 1, amid extended nationwide restrictions, movement controls through September.

  • Alert Begins: 01 Jul 2020 09:40 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 30 Jul 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Movement, commercial, and travel disruptions; possible protests

Summary
International flights have resumed in Afghanistan, as of July 1, though availability is affected by low demand and travel restrictions on Afghan citizens. Authorities continue to enforce modified measures to stem the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as of July 1. Nationwide movement control orders that ban nonessential outdoor activity will apply through at least Sept. 6, with the strictest enforcement in major cities such as Kabul and other areas with COVID-19 clusters. Citizens must stay at home to the extent possible, maintain distancing of 2 meters (6.5 feet) with others, and must wear a facemask in public. Commercial entities can resume operations with social distancing measures. Inter-city public ground transport remains suspended. However, authorities are permitting limited flights and private vehicles with a maximum of four passengers. Regional variation is probable, dependent on local caseload.

The nationwide ban on public gatherings will continue, along with the extended closure of educational institutions, tourist sites, public venues, and entertainment sites. 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 July 1. Afghan traders wishing to enter Iran must produce certification of virus-free status. 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.

Advice
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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