Iraq hiding real number of coronavirus cases from public
Avril 03 2020
Middle East Online
The sources all spoke on condition of anonymity. Iraqi authorities have instructed medical staff not to speak to the media.
Iraq's health ministry, the only official outlet for information on the coronavirus, dismissed the sources' reading of the spread of the disease.
"It's incorrect information," said Saif al-
The ministry said in its latest daily statement on Thursday that the total recorded confirmed cases for Iraq were 772, with 54 deaths.
But the three doctors, who work in pharmaceutical teams helping test suspected COVID-
The health ministry official, who also works in testing for COVID-
The political official, who has attended meetings with the health ministry, also said thousands of cases were confirmed.
The new coronavirus has hit Iraq's neighbour Iran worse than any country in the region. Iraq has close trade and religious ties with Iran and a large border, which Iraq shut in February over fears of the spread of the infection.
Iraq's healthcare system, among other infrastructure, has been stretched by decades
of sanctions, war and neglect, one among several problems that spurred mass anti-
Governments across the world have struggled to cope with the pandemic. The United States, Italy and Spain are the countries worst hit by the disease, which has infected nearly a million people worldwide and killed nearly 47,000.
The three Iraqi doctors and the political official said national security officials had attended health ministry meetings and urged authorities not to reveal the high figures because it could create public disorder with a rush on medical supplies, and make it harder to control the disease's spread.
The health ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment on any such discussions.
One of the doctors said the death toll was also likely higher than the official toll, but not by much. "On Saturday last week alone, about 50 people were buried who died from the disease," he said. At that time the official death toll was 42.
Testing facilities are limited and Iraq has publicly acknowledged that the actual number of cases must be higher than the number of confirmed cases.
Many doctors blame the accelerating spread of the disease on people refusing to be tested or isolated and on the flouting of a nationwide curfew, including by thousands of pilgrims who flocked to a Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Baghdad last month.
The three doctors and the health official said many new cases were from eastern Baghdad where those pilgrims live.
Separately, some Shi'ite pilgrims returning to Iraq from Syria have tested positive for the coronavirus, a senior Iraqi official and health officials said on Sunday.