Iraq and Kurdistan both announce record daily COVID-19 infections
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi health authorities on Thursday reported 322 new coronavirus cases over the previous 24 hours, breaking its previous record from just five days earlier. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also broke a new milestone on the same day with its record of 34 new infections.
In recent weeks, the number of active cases across the country has increased dramatically following the easing of lockdown restrictions in late April amid a strained national economy.
The new cases in Iraqi provinces outside the Kurdistan Region came after health workers conducted 5,104 tests for the disease, according to the federal health ministry.
The country’s testing campaign has trended upward since over recent weeks, but the percentage of people screened—numbered at close to 0.5 percent—has remained small compared to neighboring nations. There have been over 211,000 examinations in total since the highly-contagious disease first crossed into Iraq's borders.
The autonomous Kurdistan Region has its own health ministry and conducts tests separately. Daily testing results conducted by the Kurdish officials are typically announced later in the day than the federal government's figures and are then added to the next day's national tally.
Regional health workers carried out 985 tests of their own, officials said on Thursday. The KRG’s efforts dedicated to confirming infections have averaged around 1,000 per day since the disease first broke out, totaling around 72,000 up until now.
Iraq now has reported a total of 5,457 cases, including 179 deaths and 2,971 recoveries. KRG, meanwhile, says it has recorded 566 infections, five of whom have succumbed to the disease and 409 have recovered.
Baghdad and Basra provinces top the number of active cases across the country, with the cities of Sulaimani and Erbil leading the Kurdistan Region’s numbers.
Kurdistan Region Health Minister Saman Barzinjy warned Thursday that “the spread of the virus has accelerated” as the autonomous region has reopened and “some citizens are not following the health safety guidelines.”
On Tuesday, the Kurdistan Region's Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research announced the end of the school year for universities and colleges in the region as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Minister Aram Mohammed said in a speech that there would be no final exams and that students' grades from months before schools were vacated to stop the spread of the disease would count for the whole year.
The coronavirus has infected over 5.8 million people worldwide and killed more than 360,000, according to government-reported data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The actual figures could be dramatically higher due to insufficient testing capabilities or underreporting.
Editing by John J. Catherine