COVID-19: Iraq records 64 deaths and over 3,400 new infections

As Iraq continues to record over 3,000 COVID-19 cases in a day, it is taking health measures for the upcoming Arbaeen observances, marked by millions of Shias annually.
author_image Hiwa Shilani

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq's Ministry of Health and Environment on Sunday announced 3,438 new coronavirus infections and 64 deaths due to the disease over the past 24 hours.

The health ministry said in a statement that it had conducted 18,064 tests in the past 24 hours, making for more than two million such tests since the pandemic hit Iraq.

According to the health ministry's figures, the total number of infections in Iraq reached 319,035, including 253,591 recoveries and 8,555 deaths.

On Sunday, Iraqi Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi claimed that the rate of new coronavirus infections in the country is still limited and stable compared to other countries that have eased preventive measures.

Borders Closed for Arbaeen

"We decided to close the borders with neighboring countries and not receive visitors," Tamimi said during a press briefing. He added that "we will not allow the entry of foreign visitors this year for the holy Arbaeen rituals," set for early October.

The Shia Muslim religious observance called Arbaeen draws millions of worshippers to holy sites in Iraq annually, with a significant portion of them being pilgrims from Iran. This year, however, the two countries decided to shutter the border crossings due to the pandemic.

Despite the order, some Iranians have been seen storming the border to enter Iraq, seeking to participate in this year's observances.

Iran was the original epicenter of the coronavirus disease in the Middle East—due to close ties with China, the origin point of the virus, from where it spread to regional states, including Iraq. After two months of relatively low recorded cases early in the pandemic, coronavirus cases in Iraq shot up in May amid eased border control with Iran and steadily increased from the lower hundreds in a day to the thousands.

Now, Iraq records a higher number of virus cases in a day than Iran.

The Iraqi health official also outlined a medical plan by the authorities for the religious visitors in Karbala, where crowded marches are set to take place in the coming weeks. "We decided to examine all local visitors for the Hussaini processions, provide masks, and deploy medical teams."

Karbala province hospitals have also reportedly received medicines and medical supplies to treat coronavirus patients.

The official warned against a lack of adherence to appropriate health measures, potentially leading to an upsurge in the number of virus cases.

"We hope that there will be no increase in coronavirus infections after the religious visit."

Tamimi continued by saying that "the number of COVID-19 infections is still limited in Iraq," and noted that Baghdad is "transparent" with its total national data.

Editing by Khrush Najari