Coronavirus: Iraq culture minister contracts virus and urges public to abide by health measures

Country has witnessed a massive surge in cases during the last few weeks

People cool off from the summer heat in the mist of an open air shower on a street in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, July 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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Iraq’s Culture Minister, Hassan Nadhem, confirmed on Monday that he contracted the novel coronavirus as the country witnessed a massive surge in cases.

Health authorities registered more than 62,000 infected cases and deaths topped 2,500 on Monday.

The country's health system - worn down by years of conflict and insufficient maintenance - has been overwhelmed by the spiking numbers.

“The result of a Covid-19 test turned out to be positive on June 26; I immediately self-isolated and took all the necessary precautions to fight the disease,” Mr Nadhem said on Facebook.

“The doctors advised me to take the right vitamins and medications but they also told me to be courageous in this battle and to keep up with the daily routines of self-isolation,” he added.

He urged the public to follow the government's health regulations to prevent the spread of the disease.

Several Iraqi members of parliament have also contracted the virus and are being treated.

Iraqi officials have repeatedly warned that the health system is on the verge of collapse, with hospitals overwhelmed by patient numbers and running low on medical supplies, including oxygen cylinders.

Health Minister Hassan Al Tamimi said that compliance with government rules will be the only way the country can control Covid-19.

"The cases will decline if citizens fully commit to health instructions," Mr Al Tamimi said.

Since mid-May, Iraq has seen a surge of coronavirus infections and deaths.

Health officials said last week that the easing of cross-border restrictions between Iraq and Iran could have contributed to the recent spike in cases.

““We’ve discovered through our assessment that border control has not been strictly managed and certain foot movements have been observed in the eastern governorates between Iran and Iraq,” said Wael Hatahit, emergency coordinator for the World Health Organisation's operations in Iraq.

This “may have contributed to the spike that we are seeing”, Mr Hatahit said.