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Random Covid-19 tests in Afghanistan find third of people have virus

Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Mayar described the results as ‘concerning’.

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A health worker checks the temperature of car passengers in an effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as they enter the city in the Paghman district of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 3, 2020 (Rahmat Gul/AP)

A health worker checks the temperature of car passengers in an effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as they enter the city in the Paghman district of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 3, 2020 (Rahmat Gul/AP)

A health worker checks the temperature of car passengers in an effort to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as they enter the city in the Paghman district of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 3, 2020 (Rahmat Gul/AP)

A third of 500 random coronavirus tests in Afghanistan’s capital came back positive, health officials have said, raising fears of widespread undetected infections.

The results of the random tests in the Afghan capital of Kabul are “concerning”, Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Mayar said.

Afghanistan has performed only limited testing so far – close to 12,000, with more than 2,700 confirmed infections in a nation of 36.6 million.

As more testing becomes available, the country’s confirmed infection numbers will likely rise sharply, Mr Mayar said, who  urged residents to stay at home.

Kabul and most other cities are in lockdown, but compliance has not been widespread.

The death toll – officially at 85 – could also be much higher.

More than 250,000 Afghans returned home from Iran since the beginning of the year, fanning out across their country without being tested or quarantined.

Anecdotal reports have emerged of dozens of returnees dying of Covid-19.

Testing in Afghanistan has been sporadic and some of those infected have been hiding their symptoms, in part because of local stigma.

The Government has faced criticism for responding too slowly to the crisis.

Only recently, the Government started testing in western Herat province, where the hundreds of thousands of people have returned from Iran.

PA