Afghanistan’s is racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a mortal third spike of COVID-19 worsens, a senior health official told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.

The government is installing oxygen distribution plants in 10 provinces where around 65% of those examined in some regions are COVID positive, health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigir Nazari said.

By WHO recommendations, anything higher than 5% reveals officials aren’t testing widely enough, allowing the virus to propagate unchecked.

From WHO recommendations, anything greater than 5% reveals officials are not testing broadly enough, allowing the virus to spread unchecked. Afghanistan carries out hardly 4,000 tests a day and frequently much less.

Afghanistan’s 24-hour disease count has also continued its upward increase from 1,500 by the end of May when the health ministry was calling the explosion”a catastrophe,” to over 2,300 this week. Since the pandemic epidemic, Afghanistan is reporting 101,906 positive instances and 4,122 deaths. But those figures are probably a massive undercount, registering only deaths in hospitals — not the far larger numbers who die at home.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan received 900 oxygen cylinders from Iran on Saturday, a part of 3,800 cylinders Tehran promised to send to Kabul weekly. The shipment was delayed by Iran’s presidential elections, said Nazari.

Afghanistan has run out of empty tanks, getting a shipping of 1,000 last week from Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, hospitals are rationing their oxygen supplies. Afghans desperate for oxygen have been banging on the doors of their few oxygen providers in the Afghan capital, begging for their vacant tanks to be filled for COVID infected nearest and dearest at home.

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Abdul Wasi, whose wife was sick for nearly 10 days, has been waiting four times to get a single 45-liter cylinder to be filled at the Najb Siddiqi oxygen plant in east Kabul. Some rolled their bare oxygen cylinders up against the gate, while others waved small slips of paper taking the amount of the cylinder within the plant, waiting to be stuffed.

They are rationing her, he said that giving her little amounts of oxygen once it drops to around 45 -50 percent.

Sakhi Ahmad Payman, chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Industries and Mines, that had been inside the plant having made a tour of the oxygen plants from town, said all nine centers in Kabul were overrun. Countrywide he said Afghanistan contains 30 oxygen generating plants, and all are unable to keep up with demand.