Iraq faces full local lockdowns as virus cases jump

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq will impose a complete lockdown on some areas of the capital, the country’s new Health Minister said on Monday, amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks since curfew hours were relaxed.

The new government under Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was sworn into power just two weeks ago following a five-month leadership vacuum. Responding to the pandemic and a severe economic crisis brought on by falling oil prices is foremost on its agenda.

Areas of Baghdad believed to play a role in spreading the virus will face a full lockdown as of today for a period of two weeks, Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi said in a statement.

The areas lie in Baghdad’s peripheries and are mostly impoverished and over-crowded. They include Sadr City, Habibia, Hurriya, Shula, Ameria, and Kamalia.

Al-Tamimi said in the statement the measures were taken in view of the rising number of cases in recent weeks and to stem the spread of the virus, according to the statement.

At least 123 people have died among 3,404 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iraq, according to Health Ministry statistics. The number of confirmed cases per day has risen since curfew hours were relaxed during Ramadhan from 5pm to 5am.

On Sunday, for example, 144 cases were recorded. Before curfew hours were relaxed, only between 22-30 new infections were being reported daily.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s health emergency committee also said it will extend the lockdown of its capital, Khartoum, and the surrounding province for two weeks, starting yesterday.

The strict order was renewed as the number of known infections jumped to 2,591 in the country, stoking fears that more cases will overwhelm the state’s dilapidated health system. The curfew bars citizens in Khartoum from visiting families in far-flung provinces and potentially bringing the virus with them during Aidilfitri.

People shop in Baghdad, Iraq. PHOTO: AP