Iraq faces second wave of COVID-19 infections amid slow vaccination rates

The country started vaccination only in March when it received over 50,000 doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. It received 336,000 doses of Oxford AstraZeneca under COVAX initiative on March 25 after much delay

April 02, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo : World Health Organization

Iraq is witnessing a second wave of COVID-19 cases amid a delayed and slow vaccination process. On Thursday, April 1, the country recorded over 6,000 news cases of infection and 37 deaths. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country crossed over 851,000 with over 14,300 deaths. 

According to Iraq’s Ministry of Health, more than half of the recent cases in the country are of highly infectious UK variant which was first discovered in the country in February. 

The second surge started in late February. Though the death rate is lower than the first wave so far, the infection rates are much higher, which is applying stress on the country’s poor health infrastructure. According to Al Jazeera, most of the hospitals in the country are running at full capacity. 

The first wave peaked in September with over 4,700 cases recorded on September 29.   

According to some observers, the actual cases of infections could be high as the testing rate in the country is still very low and there is absence of any social distancing measures.  

Though vaccination in Iraq started early last month with the arrival of over 50,000 doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines, it was later boosted with the arrival of over 336,000 doses of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine produced in South Korea under the WHO’s COVAX initiative on March 25. 

According to Iraq’s health ministry, more than 200,000 doses of Sinopharm are expected to arrive in the country within the next two weeks. It also claimed that at least 1.1 million doses are expected to reach the country with the objective of vaccinating at least 20% of the population by the end of the current year.

The slow pace of vaccination in the country has raised several concerns. It has also been noted that the number of doses received and promised would not be adequate for a country which has a population of almost 40 million.   

Meanwhile, a number of demonstrations broke out in the country on Thursday, April 1, after the Ministry of Education issued a notice for offline final year exams in colleges and universities. Iraqis on social media claimed that when classes can be held online, there is no need for offline exams amidst an ongoing second wave. They trended UNESCO_SAVE_US on Twitter. Online classes were started in the country after the increase in the number of cases last year.