COVID-19 Test Kits Urgently Needed in Afghanistan

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A spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health says the problem will be addressed in two weeks.

The lack of testing kits in Afghanistan is an urgent problem that arose over the past several days as efforts are made across the country to deal with the spread of the coronavirus, for which the Afghan government is seeking the help of allies.

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Right now, tests for the coronavirus have stopped in Balkh and Herat, and the only operating testing center is in Kabul, but the Kabul lab has stopped the intake of new samples because of an overwhelming backlog.

Figures by the Ministry of Public Health show that over 6,000 case samples have been tested so far, and the country’s centers have the capacity of testing 600 samples a day.

But officials from the Ministry of Public Health stated that the problem will be solved within the next two weeks.

A spokesman for the ministry, Wahidullah Mayar, announced that the World Health Organization on Monday provided 5,000 testing kits, and 3,000 kits for transferring the samples and that 10,000 kits will be purchased by the government.

“Lack of RNA extraction kits is one of our problems which has been addressed. We will solve it within two weeks,” he said.

"We have been able to conduct 300 tests a day in Kabul but right now, we need the RNA extraction kits. We need the kits," said Nasir Ahmad Stanikzai, head of the country health laboratories.

On Saturday, the Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said the COVID-19 testing centers are faced with a shortage of RNA extraction supplies –the standard available test--which poses a new challenge in the effort to fight the coronavirus.

Other parts of the world are also faced with such a problem, the minister said, adding that there are 40,000 testing kits--used to gather samples--but a low number of RNA extraction kits, which are necessary for the lab to evaluate the samples.

“They are scarce globally,” Feroz said, referring to RNA extraction kits, adding “we have testing kits for 50,000 to 60,000 people but the RNA extraction kits are not enough.”