Positive tests at Afghan presidential palace

Positive tests at Afghan presidential palace

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least 20 employees at Afghanistan’s presidential palace have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a senior government official who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to comment on the subject.

It wasn’t clear whether President Ashraf Ghani had been in contact with any of the employees or whether he had been tested himself. The presidential palace has refused to comment.

Ghani has reportedly been self-isolating, although he still meets daily with some senior officials. At 70 and a cancer survivor, Ghani is considered in the higher risk category.

Afghanistan has reported only 993 positive cases even as the International Office of Migration, which monitors the movement of refugees, says more than 200,000 Afghans have returned from Iran in the last two months. Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries in the region with more than 82,000 confirmed cases and over 5,000 deaths.

Many of the returning refugees scattered throughout Afghanistan without testing, generating widespread fears of an outbreak of cases that could overwhelm the country’s war-ravaged health care facilities.

The United Nations has called for cease fires to conflicts around the world but, still the war goes on in Afghanistan as both sides in the conflict — the Taliban and the Afghan administration — squabble over details in an agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban in February.