Asia

Coronavirus: 'Staff infected' in Afghan presidential palace

Ashraf Ghani Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There is no suggestion that Mr Ghani has been infected

Dozens of members of staff working at Afghanistan's presidential palace have tested positive for coronavirus, according to media reports.

Twenty cases were initially reported, but on Sunday the New York Times said the number had risen to 40.

The Afghan government has not commented and there is no suggestion that President Ashraf Ghani himself has been infected.

Mr Ghani, 70, reportedly lost part of his stomach to cancer in the 1990s.

"Twenty-odd people are infected with COVID-19 in the presidential palace. However, it is [being] kept under wraps to ensure no panic is caused," one government official told AFP on Saturday.

A Twitter post published by the presidential palace on Thursday showed Mr Ghani chairing a cabinet meeting via video link, but the account has since shared photos of the president meeting Iranian officials in person - albeit at a distance.

Afghan government figures from Saturday showed 933 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Afghanistan as a whole, with 33 deaths.

While the numbers appear low, the country has limited access to testing and the health system has suffered under decades of conflict.

There are also fears that the virus could have spread after more than 150,000 Afghans returned from virus-stricken Iran during March, while tens of thousands of others returned from Pakistan.

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