Coronavirus: Iraqi health system on verge of collapse, government says

Officials urged the public to abide by official health measures as the country recorded 672 new cases

A Iraqi soldier stops a tuk-tuk at a checkpoint to ensure compliance with the rules in Baghdad's Sadr City on June 3, 2020 amid a curfew imposed to curb the latest increase in coronavirus cases.  / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

Iraq’s health care is on the verge of collapse, officials warned on Thursday, as the number of new coronavirus cases increased this week.

“We have concerns about the increase of daily cases. We anticipate the number will double which might result in the collapse of the system as it cannot manage the influx of cases,” director of the public health department, Riyad Abdel Amir, said in a statement.

The country recorded 672 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 8,840, with the majority of infections in Baghdad.

Authorities said 15 people died from the virus, eight of them in the capital, taking the total death toll in the country to 271.

Wednesday was the highest single-day jump in cases as health authorities recorded 781 cases and 21 fatalities.

Mr Abdul Amir said the public are not following health measures set by the government to curb the spread of the contagious virus.

He urged citizens to cooperate and follow official instructions.

With a healthcare system depleted by years of conflict and corruption, officials across the country have stated repeatedly that they are not equipped to deal with a full-blown crisis.

On Sunday, the government announced an extension to a lockdown it put in place to contain the virus.

Security forces were ordered to prevent public gatherings and to tighten health restrictions, according to the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety.

During the holy month of Ramadan the government eased restrictions, which resulted in a surge of infected cases, prompting concerns that a second wave might be coming.

Iraqis must commit to the highest levels of preventive measures and adhere to the lockdown, WHO Representative in Iraq, Adham Ismail, said in a statement this week.

Mr Ismail called on “the authorities to strictly apply the lockdown measures coupled with intense testing of suspected cases through contact tracing and active surveillance.”

“These measures can only achieve the desired results with the collaboration of all,” he said.