KRG sends Sulaimani extra $1.6 million to fight COVID-19 as Kurdistan cases top 3,000

Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Thursday earmarked an additional 2 billion Iraqi dinars for the fight against the coronavirus in Sulaimani province, where the highly contagious disease has been spreading rapidly in recent weeks.
author_image Khrush Najari

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Thursday earmarked an additional 2 billion Iraqi dinars for the fight against the coronavirus in Sulaimani province, where the highly contagious disease has been spreading rapidly in recent weeks.

A Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) statement said Barzani spoke on the phone with Sulaimani governor Haval Abubakir, expressing his concerns regarding the spike in the number of infections and fatalities there.

The funds, the equivalent of about $1.68 million, will be allocated to anti-coronavirus efforts by managed by provincial authorities in Sulaimani and the much smaller Halabja province. Abubakir welcomed the additional support of the KRG and the prime minister, the statement added.

Most of the sum would go to Sulaimani province, where the sharpest increase in cases and fatalities has been occuring.

Latest Data

The announcement comes as the total number of cases recorded in the Kurdistan Region since the virus first entered its borders rose to 3,045 on Thursday, according to the latest data on the KRG website, which reported another all-time high daily infection rate and continually mounting fatalities.

Close to 66 percent of all infections and 85 percent of coronavirus-related deaths reported so far have been in Sulaimani province— currently the epicenter of the disease in the Kurdistan Region.

Over the past 24 hours, KRG health workers have carried out 2,106 tests for the new disease, out of which 224 returned positive. Most of these, 159 in all, where recorded in Sulaimani, 47 in Erbil, 14 in Halabja, and four in Duhok.

Medical staff have conducted about 112,000 tests to date. Out of the total infected, 1,217 have recovered and 1,746 cases remain active, the KRG website detailed on Thursday. There have been 82 deaths due to virus-related complications.

On Wednesday, the federal government in Baghdad announced 61 deaths and more than 1,500 new cases of the coronavirus in the nation's highest daily toll yet of infections and deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Read More: COVID-19: Iraq breaks daily record with 1,554 new cases, 61 deaths

Borders Reopen, Cases Soar

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Kurdistan Region Health Minister Saman Barzinjy noted that due to lax health measures at border checkpoints—referring mostly to the posts on the Iranian border with which Sulaimani shares the region’s largest stretch of land—, many coronavirus carriers had entered the Kurdistan Region since late May, leading to the current wave of new infections.

Last week, the representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Iraq, Dr. Adham Ismail, described the situation to Kurdistan 24 in similar terms, stating that the pre-mature resumption of trade with neighboring Iran, by both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, had been a significant factor in the dramatic spike in new cases of the deadly disease.

Read More: WHO: 'Breach' of health regulations, trade with Iran behind new COVID-19 spike in Iraq, Kurdistan

Barzinjy also reiterated that the lack of public adherence to health regulations—measures such as social distancing, wearing medical masks outside, and preventing large gatherings—, and alleged misinformation and politicization of the disease had hampered efforts to contain the disease.

Before massive upticks that began in late May, the minister asserted, the fatality rate “was below one percent,” but is now “around 3.7 percent.” He also affirmed that the number of cases is higher than reported as not all infected individuals have been confirmed because testing is not universal in the autonomous region.

Editing by John J. Catherine