COVID-19 under control as total infections exceed 500,000: Iraqi health official

Sayf al-Badr, Iraqi Health Ministry’s spokesman, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is under control in the country and the ministry has followed plans to contain the increase in infections.

“Until now, the health situation is under control and we affirm the need for the citizens to adhere to the health-protective measures,” al-Badr told Xinhua in an interview on Tuesday.

The recovery rate from the coronavirus in Iraq is about 86 percent and the death rate is about 2 per cent, according to the Health Ministry’s reports.

Iraqi officials believe that such rates are widely acceptable with daily recoveries either higher than or equal to the daily COVID-19 infections.

In recent months, the Iraqi Health Ministry has followed a multi-pronged anti-COVID-19 plan despite the fragile health systems amid years of wars, conflicts, and corruption that left heavy damage to its health institutions.

The ministry has worked on increasing hospitals’ capacity, managing so far to provide more than 11,000 hospital beds after opening several makeshift hospitals across the country, and providing medical protocols to treat COVID-19 patients.

It is also working to bring in the coronavirus vaccines after being approved by international health organizations and is seeking to make Iraq one of the first countries to receive such vaccines.

The ministry on Monday said that 501,733 people had been infected with COVID-19 since the outbreak of the disease in the country in February, of whom 11,380 had died, while 432,233 patients had recovered.

The Iraqi health official repeatedly attributed the increase of COVID-19 infections to the public’s failure to comply with health instructions and to a stronger testing capacity with the increase of labs in Baghdad and other provinces.

From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the Iraqi Health Ministry has struggled to increase its testing capacity. It has increased the number of laboratories to 70 and will open new labs in the coming days, in addition to training the health staff on working on PCR labs.

The ministry also plans to enhance health awareness by increasing health programs broadcast on Iraqi Health Radio that covers all Iraqi provinces.

Mohammed Ghanim Mahdi, director of the National Center of the Teaching Laboratories of the Medical City, said that the laboratory is well-equipped and is taking part in the ministry’s efforts to contain the pandemic.

The director said that the work is going on in the Chinese-donated and built laboratory and “our situation now is stable and much better compared with five or six months ago in terms of preparing and supplying laboratory materials for detecting infection with the coronavirus.”

Mahdi praised China’s early medical aid to Iraq, including the efforts made by the Chinese expert team at the beginning of the pandemic, saying that “the Chinese team helped us build and equip the PCR laboratory and we are still in constant contact with them (the Chinese experts).”