KABUL, Afghanistan

Amid upward trajectory of novel coronavirus infections, the Afghan government on Saturday extended lockdown measures till May 24 across the country.

The decision came following a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani.

According to the presidency, the meeting reviewed the situation regarding pandemic and particularly hailed the Health Ministry for its efforts while stressing upon better care for health workers. The meeting also approved amendments in the national budget.

Earlier this week, up to 250,000 needy families in the capital Kabul began receiving ten naan breads per day in the first phase of the free bread project during the pandemic.

“You are all informed that the government intends to embark on fundamental programs/projects such as building hydropower dams, launching short-term agricultural projects and constructing streets in rural areas … Despite the plight and challenges of coronavirus, we have arranged our plans/programs in a manner to minimize or zero the possibility of a budget shortfall,” Ghani said in a statement on Tuesday.

Afghanistan faced up to the COVID-19 challenge almost three months after the new coronavirus was first detected in China last December.

The threat came knocking on the country’s western border with Iran, when tousands of panicked Afghan refugees started returning, voluntarily or otherwise, with evident symptoms of COVID-19. Over recent days, thousands more have come back from eastern neighbor Pakistan without any health checks or other safety measures.

Afghanistan on Saturday confirmed 179 more positive cases, taking the total to 2,469.

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