Kabul under lockdown, poor residents worried about bread
The Afghan government placed the capital Kabul under lockdown on Saturday, March 28, to control spread of the pandemic Covid-19, which so far according to official record has taken three lives in the country. A lockdown status will be put into effect for at least three weeks making Kabul the fourth province where a day-time curfew is now in place and public movement is restricted.
The day-time movements were
previously restricted in Herat, Farah, and Nimroz provinces, the three cities which
are adjacent to Iran.
According to latest updates confirmed by the Ministry of Public Heath (MoPH), the total positive cases of coronavirus has raised to 120, with five infected people have recovered from the Covid-9 in Herat, Daikundi, Kapisa, and Samangan provinces. Herat, Kabul, and Farah are the most hard-hit provinces where a lockdown is in place.
The government strategy to put Kabul
under a complete lockdown, however, failed to work on the first day, March 28.
Many poor street vendors and taxi drivers came out their houses in search of
bread to feed their extended families.
Early in the morning on Saturday,
first day of quarantine, police forces rushed to markets and streets in some
parts of the city after the markets and bazars were opened and passenger busses
started daily commuting despite a notification announced by the government.
“This is the order of your
president, you won’t accept it?” a traffic police told a taxi driver, who was
calling for passengers to pick them up from Kote Sangi, a crowded western
neighborhood of Kabul. The driver replied that he would stop commuting after making
a turn of passengers.
Few meters away, another taxi driver
picked me and one other traveler up for Pul-e-Surkh, another western
neighborhood which is usually crowded and busy with comfortable restaurants.
“Look here, I have worked just 200 afghanis
for today. There are 11 members in our family and I’m the only breadwinner,” he
told me while showing us few banknotes put under his car’s windshield. “We do
understand this is a dangerous disease, but we will die from hunger if we don’t
work for a day,” he continued.
Under lockdown, all stores, except groceries,
are ordered to remain shut during the period of lockdown. At earlier hours of
the Saturday, shops and superstores were opened but security forces forced the
shopkeepers to shut hours later in Pul-e-Surkh.
Speaking at a press conference in
Kabul on the same day, MoPH Spokesperson Wahidullah Mayar said a lockdown order
was not put into effect and some businesses were allowed to continue as usual
across the city.
Tariq Arian, a spokesperson for the
country’s Ministry of Interior, wrote on his twitter account that police forces
were trying their best to enforce lockdown order in the city.
In the second day of the lockdown,
however, most shops, stores, markets, and crowded business centers remained
closed while a tiny number of shop keepers resisted to shut their small
business, pending for customers to make money to feed families.
Kabul is house to an estimated six
million population most of whom live under poverty line. Although some careless
shop keepers still refuse to take the pandemic Covid-19 outbreak so serious as
they should have taken but a large number of Kabul population live on daily
wages they earn on daily basis. The rapidly global pandemic may bring a sad financial
breakdown for many poor Afghan families who have no income source other than
daily laboring in Kabul and other major Afghan cities.
“We bought it 650 afghanis because
we need to leave Kabul for Daikundi and this is necessary while traveling a two
day-long drive to the province,” said a customer who had bought a thermo flask.
He was terrified of the Covid-9 and planning to escape Kabul where he feels
exposed to the coronavirus.
Among poor population, drug addicts,
who are living in a dire situation, are most venerable to the fatal
Marwa Amini, a spokeswoman for the
Ministry of Interior, has said that in cooperation with the MoPH police forces
have taken 400 drug addicts—from PD3, PD5, PD6, and PD13 areas—to safe places.