JEDDAH: Iraqi authorities announced that a 10-day lockdown will be imposed in attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid a faltering vaccine roll-out.
Iraq’s cabinet on Tuesday decided in favour of the lockdown, which will take effect on May 12, following the recommendation of the Supreme Committee for Health and National Safety, state news agency INA reported.
The 10-day lockdown will mean that Muslims will observe the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr under a comprehensive curfew.
The announcement comes as apathy, fear and rumors kept many from getting vaccinated despite a serious surge in coronavirus infections and calls by the government for people to register for shots.
So far, fewer than than 380,000 people have been fully vaccinated in the country of 40 million.
The Health Ministry has cashed in on the campaign, publishing on its Facebook page the photo of al-Sadr getting the shot, saying his vaccination was meant to encourage all citizens to do the same.
Iraq received 336,000 new doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in late March and Iraqis above the age of 18 are qualified to get the jab. Last month, the first shipment of Pfizer doses arrived in the country, with 49,000 shots.
“All the vaccines that arrived in Iraq are safe and effective … but until this moment, there are some citizens who are afraid of taking the vaccine as a result of malicious rumors,” said Ruba Hassan, a Health Ministry official.
The Health Ministry has introduced measures to push Iraqis to get the shots. They include travel restrictions for those unable to produce a vaccination card and dismissals of employees at shops, malls and restaurants. While the measures have led more people to seek out vaccinations, they have also confused and angered a still largely reticent public
Iraq has grappled with a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. New case numbers spiked to over 8,000 per day last month, the highest they have ever been. The surge was driven largely by public apathy toward the virus. Many routinely flout virus-related restrictions, refusing to wear face masks and continuing to hold large public gatherings.
Daily rates have decreased in the last week, with 5,068 new cases reported on Monday.