Iraq battles new Covid wave spreading across war-torn country

Increase in infections comes amid fight to contain other disease outbreaks

Medical workers treat a patient in the coronavirus ward of Al Shifa Hospital, Baghdad, on February 20. AFP
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Iraq has entered a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s health ministry has revealed, as the war-ravaged country fights to contain other disease outbreaks.

“It has been noticed that there is a substantial increase in the positive cases over the past few days as well as hospital admissions,” the ministry said on Monday.

“That means Iraq has entered a new pandemic wave.”

In recent months, there has been a sense of normality as coronavirus infections dropped significantly to about 100 a day. The government lifted Covid-19 restrictions, with fewer people wearing masks or observing guidelines.

But, in recent weeks, confirmed cases have increased.

On Monday, Iraq announced 515 cases and one death, taking the number of confirmed infections to 2,332,692 million and deaths to 25,229.

The ministry blamed the vaccine hesitation and absence of preventive measures for the surge.

Even though Iraq has a mandatory vaccination programme, the coverage is still low, with about 10.8 million of the 40 million population vaccinated.

Dual fight against disease and climate change

Decades of war, UN-imposed sanctions and instability have left the country’s health sector in tatters.

Medics have been struggling to meet the public’s healthcare demands and contain previous coronavirus waves.

The latest infections come amid a fight to contain other disease outbreaks, as well as an acute climate change impact.

On Sunday, the health ministry announced at least 13 confirmed cases of cholera across the country and thousands of hospital admissions for acute diarrhoea were reported, with those numbers expected to rise.

Since the beginning of this year, Iraq has also registered a surge in the number of cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

As of last week, there have been more than 170 cases, of which 32 have been fatal, compared with an annual average of about 20 and one or two deaths.

Updated: June 21, 2022, 7:53 AM