Workers wearing face masks work at a restaurant in Baghdad, Iraq on Aug. 19, 2020. Night life has been resuming in Baghdad since Aug. 16, when the Iraqi Higher Committee for Health and National Safety cancelled the weekly three-day full curfew to replace them with partial curfew every week and reduced the partial curfew hours to be from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. (Xinhua)
Workers wearing face masks work at a restaurant in Baghdad, Iraq on Aug. 19, 2020. Night life has been resuming in Baghdad since Aug. 16, when the Iraqi Higher Committee for Health and National Safety cancelled the weekly three-day full curfew to replace them with partial curfew every week and reduced the partial curfew hours to be from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. (Xinhua)

Concerns are rising over the recent decisions of Iraqi health authorities to ease some anti-COVID-19 restrictions and the public’s non-compliance to health instructions as Iraq’s total infections surpassed 200,000.

“The number of infected COVID-19 cases in Iraq is exponentially rising to an alarming and worrying level, suggesting a major health crisis soon,” World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a statement.

“In the absence of a drug or vaccine, Iraq is left only with preventive measures to fight the spread of the pandemic,” it said.

The situation has deteriorated because of the easing of restrictions and failure to implement safety measures forcefully, according to WHO.

In the past few days, the Iraqi Health Ministry has recorded the highest daily surge with more than 4,000 new COVID-19 cases. The tally of infections in the country reached 201,050 on Saturday.

Stronger testing capacity is also one of the reasons behind the latest increase of COVID-19 infections in Iraq. New COVID-19 labs have been opened in Baghdad and other provinces.

The latest peak of total infections has made Iraq fourth in the number of infections in the Middle East. It tops the list of Arab countries in the number of pandemic deaths with 6,353, according to international statistics.

Despite warnings by the Ministry of Health, Iraqi health authorities canceled the full curfew and eased health restrictions because of the heavy economic impacts on the war-shattered country.

On Aug. 16, the Iraqi Higher Committee for Health and National Safety, headed by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, canceled the weekly three-day full curfew on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The committee replaced the full curfew with a daily partial curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Faryad al-Dhari, an Iraqi health expert, told Xinhua that ignorance and failure to abide by health instructions are primary factors behind the spread of the pandemic in Iraq.

“We live in a society of widespread ignorance and indifference, which makes people live normally without applying public safety rules of wearing a mask and applying social distancing,” said al-Dhari.

Ziyad al-Jubouri, a professor of economics at Baghdad University, said that Iraqi government was force to ease restrictions amid the economic pressure.

Iraq has been facing an acute financial crisis because of sharp declines in oil prices in recent months, mainly amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the global economy.

Since the country’s economy relies heavily on revenues from crude oil exports, the Iraqi government has been facing great difficulty in paying salaries of its employees, said al-Jubouri.

The economic paralysis was acute especially in the first months of the outbreak, and low-income families were affected most as a result of full curfew measures taken by the government.

“The government was forced to ease restrictive measures to give daily-wage laborers an opportunity to earn money at their regular jobs to support their families, despite the high number of COVID-19 infections,” al-Jubouri added. Enditem

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