Senior Iraqi official contracts COVID-19, as gov’t reports over 3,600 more cases

Over the past 10 days, Iraqi authorities have recorded over 4,000 cases in a day six times.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Hassan Kaabi, said on Monday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. On the same day, the federal health ministry announced it had recorded over 3,600 more cases of the disease over the previous 24 hours.

Kaabi said in a statement that he started to experience symptoms of what he felt might be due to the new virus on Saturday. He then got an examination, which showed he had been infected with the new disease, and noted his condition is “stable.”

The news came hours after the health ministry reported that health workers had conducted more than 24,000 coronavirus tests, about 3,600 of which returned positive. There were also 91 fatalities, according to official figures, and about 4,000 patients also recovered.

The new number of infections is an uptick from those of a day earlier. Over the past 10 days, Iraqi authorities have recorded over 4,000 cases in a day six times, also raising the total tally to more than 200,000. So far, nearly 6,500 patients have died due to the disease.

The ministry also reports that about 150,000 have recovered from the highly contagious coronavirus. Though it is officially described as such, a “recovery” does not necessarily entail that a patient is free from potentially long-lasting symptoms, which many have reported, even in mild cases.

Health officials have repeatedly called on the public to adhere to health guidelines that significantly reduce the chances of transmission, such as wearing face masks, social distancing, and frequent washing of hands. These measures are more effective when all practice it.

On Sunday, the health ministry said it had supplied hospitals with the remdesivir drug, which has shown promise in treating coronavirus patients, especially in more severe cases.

Ashura Pilgrimage

Aug. 29 marks Ashura, an event that accompanies parades of Shia Muslims mourning the seventh-century killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammed. The tightly packed marches are feared to lead to many new infections, adding to an already high number of daily cases.

Authorities have issued regulations on such ritual ceremonies, such as preventing gatherings and imposing social distancing during the marches. Procession officials are also obliged to implement these measures to curb the spread of the virus.

The national health committee, tasked with combating the coronavirus, decided last week to ban tourists from entering Iraq, as the Ashura event approached. The yearly event attracts hundreds of thousands to Iraq, especially Iranian Shias.

Iran itself was the original epicenter of the disease due to close ties with China, where the virus first emerged in late 2019, and from where it spread to regional states, especially as border crossings were reopened.

In March, hundreds of Iraqis violated curfews to take part in another annual religious ceremony in the Kadhimiya district of Baghdad that houses one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam.

Read More: Iraq slams curfew violations in Baghdad as coronavirus cases reach 192

Large crowds of pedestrians gathered alongside heavy traffic that included cars, taxis, buses, and motorcycles. This and other such religious gatherings have been blamed for early coronavirus outbreaks in both Iraq and neighboring Iran.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany