| 28 February 2024, Wednesday |

Afghanistan running out of oxygen as COVID-19 surge worsens

A senior health official told The Associated Press in an interview on Saturday that Afghanistan’s is racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a deadly third surge of the coronavirus worsens.

Health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dasigi Nazary said the government is installing oxygen supply plants in 10 provinces where the spike in COVID infections in some areas is hovering around 65%.

By WHO recommendations, anything higher than 5% is a sign that officials aren’t testing widely enough, thus allowing the coronavirus to spread unchecked.

Since the pandemic outbreak, the country has reported 101,906 positive cases and 4,122 fatalities. But those figures are likely a massive undercount, registering only deaths in hospitals — not the far greater numbers who die at home.

Afghanistan received 900 oxygen cylinders from Iran on Saturday, part of 3,800 cylinders Tehran has vowed to deliver to Kabul last week. Nazary said the shipment was delayed by Iran’s presidential elections.

The country has even run out of empty cylinders, receiving a delivery of 1,000 last week from Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, hospitals are rationing their oxygen supplies. Afghans desperate for oxygen are banging on the doors of the few oxygen suppliers in the Afghan capital, begging for their empty cylinders to be filled for coronavirus infected loved ones at home.