In recent weeks, Iraq has continued to witness a concerning increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, with a regular average of more than 3,500 new daily cases. The number of individuals who have contracted the virus as of 29 August stands at 227,446 cases; close to double the number of cases in comparison to the last update. More than 30 per cent of these cases have been detected in Baghdad, followed by Basrah, Kerbala and Sulaymaniyah. Similarly, the number of deaths to date has increased to a total of 6,891, however, the increase has been at a lower rate than the number of new positive cases. The Government of Iraq (GoI) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have conducted over 1.5 million tests.
While the GoI has extended the current curfew measures across central and southern governorates until further notice, the latest reports indicate that only a small percentage of the population is actually respecting them. During the past week, despite warnings by the government to avoid mass gatherings, thousands of pilgrims started gathering in the city of Kerbala to mark the holy month of Muharram. The Iraqi Minister of Health has recently described the situation as very concerning and called on all citizens to abide by the recommendations from health authorities as well as by the curfew measures. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I), despite the ongoing increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, the KRG has announced the ease of movement restrictions between KR-I and central and southern governorates, as well as the opening of border crossing points with Iran. In the meantime, the World Health Organization (WHO) has delivered a large amount of advanced health equipment and items to the GoI and the KRG and is currently conducting countrywide COVID-19 prevention and containment campaigns in collaboration with local authorities.