Iraqi President Barham Salih receives Covid-19 vaccine

Government officials and health sector under scrutiny after hospital fire killed 82

Iraqi President Barham Salih received his first Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, as the number of cases in the country passed one million – the highest in the Arab world.

The president praised frontline workers and their role in fighting the pandemic.

"Our people can overcome this ordeal and successfully complete the efforts of health professionals by adhering to personal protective measures against the virus and to protect society," Mr Salih said.

The president's office did not say which vaccine Mr Salih received.

Iraq's vaccination campaign was rolled out in March. The country has received most of its 650,000 doses from the UN-backed Covax scheme, which aims to provide doses to poorer countries.

It has been using supplies of Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines.

More than 313,000 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the Ministry of Health said on Monday.

Mr Salih was vaccinated days after a fire ripped through Ibn Al Khatib hospital in Baghdad, killing at least 82 people and wounding 110, after an oxygen tank exploded.

Health Minister Hassan Al Tamimi and Governor of Baghdad Mohammed Ata were among officials suspended after the incident, which the president blamed on corruption and mismanagement.

"The tragedy of Ibn Al Khatib Hospital is a wound for the whole nation. Sympathising with those who lost their lives in not enough," Mr Salih said on Twitter.

He called for "accountability towards the negligence and a comprehensive and serious review of the performance of institutions to ensure that such disasters are not repeated".

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi announced a three-day period of mourning for the victims and ordered an investigation into the blast, which will be led by the Ministry of Interior.

Updated: April 27, 2021 06:25 PM

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