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Iraq announces 10-day lockdown amid virus surge

Iraq, which is struggling to vaccinate its population, recently topped 1 million coronavirus cases.
An Iraqi man rides his bicycle past a closed mosque in Baghdad on Feb. 19, 2021, as authorities reimposed partial lockdown measures until early March after detecting a new strain of the coronavirus.

Iraq is imposing a 10-day lockdown as the country experiences a surge in new coronavirus infections, coupled with a slow vaccine rollout.

From May 12-22, mass gatherings are prohibited and malls, cafes, cinemas, parks, event halls, swimming pools, gymnasiums will remain closed. Pharmacies and grocery stores are exempt, and restaurants can provide takeout only.

During a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the recommendations of the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety were approved, which included halting in-person learning at schools and universities.

A statement from the prime minister’s office said the new lockdown measures come in response to “an increase in the number of cases throughout Iraq.”

Last month, Iraq topped 1 million coronavirus infections. On Tuesday, health officials confirmed 6,143 new cases and 42 deaths from the virus, raising the total since the start of the pandemic to 1,086,141 cases and 15,608 deaths.

Until further notice, Iraqis are barred from traveling to and from India, which has emerged as a COVID-19 hotspot. Iraqis currently in India who wish to return home must quarantine for 14 days.

Less than 1% of Iraq’s population of 40 million has been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Since rolling out its national vaccination campaign in late March, just 358,104 people had received jabs as of Saturday, the Ministry of Health reported.

The Ministry of Health is encouraging Iraqis to sign up for a vaccination online or by visiting a health clinic to receive either the AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Sinopharm vaccine.

Last month, a fire tore through a Baghdad hospital set up for COVID-19 patients, leaving at least 82 people dead and dozens injured. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi blamed the blaze on negligence and ordered an investigation into how it started.