The British Economist magazine said that most Arab regimes have dealt with the pandemic of the Coronavirus outbreak by tightening their grip to apply precautionary measures, with the exception of Iraq, which abandoned early last month.
The newspaper pointed out that the Iraqi government appears incapable of imposing social distancing or forcing people to wear masks, and it has little money to spend on health services that have been destroyed by wars over decades and rampant corruption in the country.
Official statistics indicate that the number of new infections with the Coronavirus in Iraq exceeded 350,000 people, while the epidemic claimed the lives of more than 9,000 Iraqis, and although these statistics are less than the real number of victims of the pandemic, the number remains more than the victims of the epidemic in any Arab country else.
The magazine pointed out that clerics are still organizing large mass gatherings despite the worsening outbreak of the epidemic, and that the Shiites in the country are going ahead with preparations to organize the fortieths of Imam Hussein bin Ali, may God be pleased with them, as hundreds of thousands of Shiites annually go to the city of Karbala (south of Baghdad). Thousands of Shiite pilgrims travel on foot, traveling the 500 km from Basra (the southernmost tip of Iraq) to Karbala, eating and sleeping together in huts on the side of the road.
According to the report, the risk of further spread of infection with the Coronavirus will increase when hundreds of thousands of visitors meet in Karbala on the seventh of October.
The Iraqi government is trying to limit the flow of foreign visitors to Karbala by closing the land borders of Iraq and restricting flights from Iran and others, but it has many obstacles.
According to a former advisor at the Ministry of Health – the magazine did not name it – “People believe that visiting the shrine of Hussein in Karbala cures Covid-19.”
The magazine’s report indicated that Iraq spends nearly half of what its poorer neighbor Jordan spends on health on an individual, but much of that money is lost or stolen, and that attempts to tackle corruption and reform the Ministry of Health are failing due to excessive pressure from within the ministry.
The magazine also pointed out that the health sector in Iraq suffers from a shortage of doctors and hospital beds, which are now less than they were before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, despite the nearly doubling of the population.
According to the Iraqi Doctors Syndicate, about 20 thousand Iraqi doctors have fled abroad, while many of those who have remained in the country recently went on strike to protest the poor working conditions and the lack of basic materials such as masks.