The Afghan government on Thursday suggested a nationwide ceasefire with the Taliban to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus and deliver services to the people in Afghanistan, where the global pandemic has so far infected 22 people and forced the country to ban all types of social and political gatherings.

In a video, Defence Minister, Asadullah Khalid accompanied by Interior Minister Masoud Andarabi said, “In order to have prevented this pandemic in the country, our suggestion and demand is to go for a ceasefire, so we will be able to help our people with precaution and treatment of this disease in every corner of Afghanistan”.

Khalid said the Afghan government and security forces were working throughout the country to prevent the spread of the virus and to deliver necessary services and assistance to residents and needed to reach people in every part of the country, Efe news reported.

“Our suggestion is for a nationwide ceasefire, so we can work together for prevention of this disease” Khalid said.

The Taliban was yet to respond to the government’s suggestion.

On Wednesday, the US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad said the Washington would like the Afghan government to begin the process of releasing Taliban prisoners as soon as possible in line with the historic peace agreement.

In a series of tweets, Khalilzad said that technical teams from both sides can work together and focus on steps to begin prisoner releases as soon as possible.

The US-Taliban deal signed in Qatar on February 29 calls for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners to open the way for intra-Afghan negotiations.

Earlier, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has pardoned thousands of Taliban prisoners in a key preliminary step to intra-Afghan talks between a government delegation and the extremist group.

Ghani’s move to release the 5,000 inmates marks the beginning of negotiations to end the 19 years of war that have pitted the Taliban against the government in Afghanistan.

The deal would contribute to bringing stability back to Afghanistan and promote regional and international security, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

More than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan’s war last year, the United Nations announced Saturday, as a historic partial truce kicked in across the country. India did not recognise Afghanistan diplomatically when Taliban was ruling the country from 1996 to 2002.