Baghdad (AFP) – Iraq registered nearly 2,500 new coronavirus cases and over 100 deaths on Thursday, setting new records in a country whose health sector had been bracing itself for such a spike.
Hospitals across the country have been overwhelmed over the last week by a jump in cases and deaths, following months of the virus spreading relatively slowly.
On Thursday, the health ministry said it had confirmed 2,437 new cases over the last day, bringing the total in the country to over 39,000 — of whom about half have recovered.
Another 107 people died of coronavirus-related causes, pushing the total death toll to 1,437.
Iraq had so far considered itself spared as the virus spread in other regional countries, including in neighbouring Iran where more than 10,000 have died.
But the Iraqi health sector has been worn down by years of war and poor investment and appears to be collapsing under the strain of the virus.
Doctors in coronavirus wards have complained of a lack of personal protective equipment, and say they have been made to keep working even if they showed symptoms of infection.
Tests are also still not widely available, with authorities conducting fewer than a half-million tests in March in a country of 40 million people.
China, the United Arab Emirates and the United States have all donated COVID-related aid to Iraq, which is also seeking emergency funding from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Some of Iraq’s 18 provinces have maintained full lockdowns, but most have eased restrictions to a nightly curfew in an effort to revive the local economy.
Many shops have reopened, with customers and staff alike declining to wear masks or observe social distancing.