Coronavirus-hit Afghanistan gets $200 million World Bank grant

Firefighters spray disinfectant on a street as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus in Kabul on June 18, 2020. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 10 July 2020

Coronavirus-hit Afghanistan gets $200 million World Bank grant

  • Country’s war-ravaged economy has been severely impacted due to a months-long lockdown
  • Virus first spread to Afghanistan as infected migrants returned from neighboring Iran

KABUL: The World Bank has approved $200 million in aid to help Afghanistan tackle economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic, as confirmed cases top more than 34,000 in the conflict zone.
The country’s war-ravaged economy has been severely impacted due to a months-long lockdown, with thousands of people losing their jobs in the economic fallout.
Afghanistan has also grappled with increased militant violence in recent months that has diverted vital attention and resources away from the fight against the disease.
“The program will provide vital fiscal resources to manage the impacts of the pandemic in the context of rapidly slowing economic growth and declining government revenues,” Henry Kerali, the World Bank head for Afghanistan said in a statement on Thursday.
Afghanistan has so far declared just over 34,000 cases of COVID-19, with nearly 1,000 deaths.
“In the cities, the cases are steady but we are worried the cases may spread in rural areas,” Abdul Qadir, a senior official at the health ministry told AFP on Friday.
Qadir said the World Bank funds will be used to help mitigate the impact on health care, social and business sectors.
The virus first spread to Afghanistan as infected migrants returned from neighboring Iran, the region’s worst-hit country.


India PM Modi holds first election rally since COVID-19 outbreak

Updated 23 October 2020

India PM Modi holds first election rally since COVID-19 outbreak

  • Thousands of supporters standing shoulder to shoulder and ignoring social distancing rules attended the rally
  • India has been among the worst hit by the coronavirus, with the second-highest amount of cases globally

MUMBAI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held his first election rally on Friday since the coronavirus took hold in the country in March, drawing thousands of cheering supporters standing shoulder to shoulder and ignoring social distancing rules.
Other politicians including Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi also attended big rallies in the eastern state of Bihar, where local elections start in phases from next week, with many unmasked participants trying to get a glimpse of the leaders.
India has been among the worst hit by the coronavirus, with the second-highest amount of cases globally, and experts worry big gatherings like the political rallies could trigger a fresh spike in cases.
“I want to congratulate the people of Bihar for fighting a disaster like corona so well... the situation in some of the richest countries in the world is not hidden from anyone,” Modi said at the first of the three rallies scheduled in the state.
The 70-year-old, who has himself highlighted the importance of social distancing, took off his mask before addressing a crowd from a high platform.
Bihar, India’s third-most populous state and one of its poorest, has recorded more than 200,000 coronavirus infections, fewer than richer states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
India reported 54,366 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 7.8 million. It has the highest number of reported infections after the United States but the rise in cases has slowed since reaching a peak on Sept. 17.
A government panel has warned, however, that if precautions like wearing masks and social distancing are not followed around India, cases could spike by up to 2.6 million in just a month.
“There is some evidence that large gatherings cause rapid spread,” the government-appointed panel of scientists, virologists and other experts said earlier this week.
As various states head to elections over the coming months, political groups including Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party have started promising free COVID-19 vaccines.