JEDDAH: Iraqi authorities have announced that a 10-day lockdown will be imposed in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid a hesitant vaccine rollout.
The Iraqi cabinet spoke on Tuesday in favor of the lockdown, which will take effect on May 12, following the recommendation of the Supreme Committee for Health and National Security, the official INA news agency reported.
The 10-day lockdown will mean Muslims will observe the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr under a full curfew.
The announcement comes as apathy, fear and rumors have kept many people from getting vaccinated despite a surge in coronavirus infections and calls for the government to sign up for vaccines.
So far, less than 380,000 people have been fully immunized in the country of 40 million people.
The health ministry took advantage of the campaign by posting the photo of al-Sadr being vaccinated on its Facebook page, saying his vaccination was meant to encourage all citizens to do the same.
Iraq received 336,000 new doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the end of March and Iraqis over 18 are qualified to receive the vaccine. Last month, the first shipment of doses of Pfizer arrived in the country, with 49,000 injections.
“All the vaccines that have arrived in Iraq are safe and effective … but until now some citizens are afraid of getting vaccinated due to malicious rumors,” said Ruba Hassan, an official with the Ministry of Health. .
The health ministry has introduced measures to urge Iraqis to get vaccinated. They include travel restrictions for those unable to present a vaccination card and layoffs of employees in stores, malls and restaurants. While the measures have led more people to get vaccinated, they have also confused and angered a still largely reluctant public.
Iraq is grappling with a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of new cases rose to more than 8,000 a day last month, the highest on record. The push was driven largely by public apathy towards the virus. Many routinely ignore virus restrictions, refusing to wear face masks and continuing to hold large public gatherings.
Daily rates declined last week, with 5,068 new cases reported on Monday.