Public Health Ministry officials said Monday that Afghanistan’s health sector does not have the medical equipment needed to detect the newly mutated version of the coronavirus and as such, they have no idea how many people are infected with the omicron variant.
While the case number in Afghanistan is lower compared to neighboring countries, the ministry of health says the latest data put the number of cases at 40. However, it’s not known how many have the omicron variant.
“We have problems to identify the new variant of COVID-19. We call on the international community to help us. They vowed that they will continues their help,” said Javid Hazher, spokesman for the ministry of public health.
Meanwhile, staff at the Afghan-Japan Hospital, the main COVID-19 treatment center in Kabul, said that between 15 and 20 patients seek treatment at the hospital daily, however they are not able to detect the variant.
“So far, the mutated type of COVID-19 has not been identified because we have not received the diagnostic device and we have asked the Ministry of Health to make the device available as soon as possible,” said Mohammad Anil, HR director of the hospital.
Members of the public meanwhile have called on the ministry to take special measures to help curb the spread of the virus – which is currently in its 4th wave in the country.
“It has been 15 days that my mother is sick and we are satisfied with the hospital but we ask people to not go outside without wearing masks and washing their hands,” said Mohammad Juma, one Kabul resident.
“People should wear masks, and this is Islamic law, when we pray and wash our hands, we do not get sick,” said Mohammad Arif, another resident.
Covid-19 pandemic ‘most certainly not over’, warns WHO chief
The Covid-19 pandemic is “most certainly not over”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Sunday (May 22) during the opening session of the U.N agency’s annual assembly.
More than 100 world health ministers meet in Geneva this week for the WHO’s first in-person World Health Assembly in three years.
As the delegates meet, COVID-19 infections were still rising and and efforts to vaccinate the world remained incomplete, Tedros told the assembly.
“It’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere. Reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions – and this in a world in which testing rates have plummeted,” he said.
As the U.N. agency seeks to define its future role in global health policy, the agenda is the most packed in the WHO’s 75-year history and is seen as an historic opportunity to move on from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to 15 million deaths, and prepare for the next global outbreak.
The WHO’s Europe region passed a resolution against Russia this month and asked Tedros to prepare a report on Ukraine’s health emergency.
Members are also preparing a resolution to be submitted to the assembly, although diplomats say it will stop short of suspending Russia’s voting rights, as some initially sought.
The WHO’s Ethiopian Director-General Tedros is all but certain to be re-elected via a secret ballot on Tuesday (May 24), having overcome criticism from his own government and a crisis last year following sexual abuse reports against WHO staff in Congo.
The biggest outcome from the assembly itself is expected to be a funding deal seen as necessary to ensure WHO’s survival, with an agreement set to be approved by members which would help cut its reliance on donations with strings attached.
WHO is currently funded mostly by voluntary contributions from governments and private donors, a set-up that the U.N. agency and independent panels of experts have said is unsustainable as the organisation faces new challenges, including higher risks of pandemics as well as other health issues from breastfeeding to Ebola.
A deal that would raise mandatory fees for member states and reduce its reliance on donations – as long as WHO makes much-needed changes to improve efficiency and transparency – is likely to be approved.
Japan to double limit on foreign arrivals from next month
Japan will next month double its limit on foreign arrivals to 20,000 a day, the top government spokesperson said on Friday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular news conference that travellers from most countries, about 80% of the total foreign entrants to Japan, would not be required to provide proof of negative COVID tests, nor would they have to quarantine on arrival.
This included people from all other members of the G7 group of developed economies.
Japan is accepting business travellers, foreign students and academics but not tourists, except a limited number in a trial of package tours.
Matsuno said experience with the trials would be used in later decisions to further reopen.
China removes some COVID test rules on travellers from U.S.
Travellers flying to China from U.S. cities including Los Angeles, New York and San Francesco from May 20 will no longer need a RT-PCR test seven days before flights, notices issued late on Tuesday by the Chinese embassy and consulates showed.
Previous requirements on antibody tests before flights will be removed as well, the notices said.
Travellers still need to do two RT-PCR tests within 48 hours or 24 hours of their flights – depending on which airport they are flying out of – plus another antigen test, those notices showed.
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