Iraq hit with record-high COVID-19 deaths

An Iraqi phlebotomist holds a test tube containing a blood sample of a recovered COVID-19 patient at the blood bank of Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province, on June 24, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 June 2020

Iraq hit with record-high COVID-19 deaths

  • China, the UAE and the US have all donated COVID-related aid to Iraq
  • The Iraqi health sector has been worn down by years of war and poor investment and appears to be collapsing under the strain of the virus

BAGHDAD: Iraq registered nearly 2,500 new coronavirus cases and over 100 deaths on Thursday, setting new records in a country whose health sector had been bracing itself for such a spike.
Hospitals across the country have been overwhelmed over the last week by a jump in cases and deaths, following months of the virus spreading relatively slowly.
On Thursday, the health ministry said it had confirmed 2,437 new cases over the last day, bringing the total in the country to over 39,000 — of whom about half have recovered.
Another 107 people died of coronavirus-related causes, pushing the total death toll to 1,437.
Iraq had so far considered itself spared as the virus spread in other regional countries, including in neighboring Iran where more than 10,000 have died.
But the Iraqi health sector has been worn down by years of war and poor investment and appears to be collapsing under the strain of the virus.
Doctors in coronavirus wards have complained of a lack of personal protective equipment, and say they have been made to keep working even if they showed symptoms of infection.
Tests are also still not widely available, with authorities conducting fewer than a half-million tests in March in a country of 40 million people.
China, the United Arab Emirates and the United States have all donated COVID-related aid to Iraq, which is also seeking emergency funding from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Some of Iraq’s 18 provinces have maintained full lockdowns, but most have eased restrictions to a nightly curfew in an effort to revive the local economy.
Many shops have reopened, with customers and staff alike declining to wear masks or observe social distancing.


New board of directors appointed to run Lebanon’s ‘corrupt’ state power company

Updated 08 July 2020

New board of directors appointed to run Lebanon’s ‘corrupt’ state power company

  • Regulation of electricity sector a key condition of international bailout for collapsing economy

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s government finally appointed a new board of directors on Tuesday to control the state-owned electricity company.
Electricite du Liban (EDL) has long been mired in allegations of corruption and fraud. Its annual losses of up to $2 billion a year are the biggest single drain on state finances as Lebanon faces economic collapse and the plunging value of its currency.
Reform of the electricity sector has been a key demand of the International Monetary Fund and potential donor states before they will consider a financial bailout.
“Lebanon’s electricity policy has been inefficient and ineffective for decades — always on the brink of collapse, but staying afloat with last minute patchwork solutions,” said Kareem Chehayeb of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, DC.
“The economic crisis has made fuel imports more expensive, causing a shortage, with external generator providers hiking their prices or seeking business in Syria. It is a wake-up call to decades of overspending and poor planning of a basic public service.”
The World Bank has described the electricity sector in Lebanon as “tainted with corruption and waste,” and the IMF said “canceling the subsidy to electricity is the most important potential saving in spending.”
Electricity rationing was applied for the first time to hospitals and the law courts, but Minister of Energy Raymond Ghajar said: “The first vessel loaded with diesel for power plants has arrived, and as of Wednesday the power supply will improve.”
Prime Minister Hassan Diab promised the Lebanese people on Tuesday that they would see the results of government efforts to resolve the country’s financial chaos “in the coming weeks.”
Addressing a Cabinet meeting, Diab said: “The glimmer of hope is growing.” However, the appointment of an  EDF board of directors was criticized by opposition politicians. Former prime minister Najib Mikati said the appointments meant “the crime of wrong prevailing over right … is being repeated.”