Iraqi Health Ministry considers border closures as coronavirus cases increase

Number of infections has risen sharply, with more than 9,000 reported on Wednesday

A medical team member wearing a protective suit and a face mask, works on blood samples to be tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a medical center in a hospital in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq February 15, 2021. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani
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Iraq’s Health Ministry said on Wednesday that borders must close to contain the spread of the coronavirus, as authorities report more than 9,000 new infections daily.

Records showed there were 9,635 more cases and 47 more deaths on Wednesday.

“The Ministry of Health and Environment is closely monitoring the situation with great concern, this is why we will make recommendations that may include taking the most strict measures in the event of a serious increase in infections,” the ministry said.

The measures may include imposing “a full lockdown and closing the borders to contain the spread of the infection and deaths”, it said.

Iraq is still recovering from decades of war and insurgency, which have done serious damage to its health system and its oil-dependent economy.

Iraq has recorded more than 1.4 million Covid-19 cases and more than 17,700 deaths since the pandemic started in March 2020.

Only 1 per cent of Iraq's 40 million population have been vaccinated since the programme began in March this year because of public scepticism about inoculations. Many Iraqis do not abide by the public health measures created to stop the virus from spreading.

Iraq has so far ordered 18 million doses of various vaccines, including those made by AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech.

Health Ministry spokesman Saif Al Badr blamed hesitation to book inoculations on a "misinformation campaign which preceded the arrival of the vaccine".

“The ministry regrets the lack of co-operation by the citizens in implementing preventive measures and the delay in taking the vaccine that’s available in all hospitals and health centre."

The ministry urged influential public and religious figures to stress the importance of following health regulations such as wearing masks and maintaining social distances.

Updated: July 14, 2021, 4:37 PM