KABUL, Afghanistan 

Afghanistan announced on Friday it will ease lockdown measures for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, starting this weekend.

However, officials urged the public to follow safety rules and social distancing guidelines, as Afghanistan’s daily case count is now regularly around or above 500, with almost half of suspected patients testing positive every day.

On Friday, the Health Ministry reported 542 new cases and 12 more deaths, raising the total to 9,216, including 205 fatalities and 993 recoveries.

Abdul Hakeem Muneeb, the minister for religious affairs, said post-dawn congregational prayers will be held across the country on the first day of the Eid.

He said people with COVID-19 symptoms should stay home and all others who attend the prayers must follow safety guidelines.

“Those praying should respect the need for physical distance, wear a mask, and bring their own prayer mats. Organizers must ensure that all prayer areas are disinfected,” he told a news conference.

The announcement came just a day after Deputy Health Minister Waheed Majroh made a desperate appeal to citizens to stay at home during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

He said public hospitals are burdened beyond capacity and rampant lockdown violations are leading the country towards a catastrophe.

Restrictions were also extended on Thursday in the capital Kabul, the country’s hardest-hit area with 3,083 cases and 29 deaths.

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