Iraq records rising COVID-19 cases, including new variant - ministry

FILE PHOTO: A medical team member takes a swab sample from a man to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a medical center in a hospital in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq February 15, 2021. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq recorded a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections with 3,332 confirmed in the past 24 hours, its health ministry said on Tuesday, after the country confirmed infections of one of the newer variants of the novel coronavirus.

The rising cases, approaching levels of infection recorded last summer after a dip during the winter, have prompted authorities to announce a nightly curfew beginning on Thursday.

Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi said on Monday that the new variant first found in Britain had been detected in Iraq, including among children. He did not say how many people had been infected with it.

Baghdad will impose a nationwide curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays and for 24 hours a day on Friday to Sunday, beginning on Thursday, authorities announced last week.

The health ministry said on Tuesday that seven people had died from the disease in the last 24 hours.

Iraq’s highest daily recorded figures reached over 5,000 infections last year.

The total number of people infected with COVID-19 in Iraq is 649,982, including 13,192 deaths as of Feb. 16.

The Iraqi curfew comes ahead of a planned visit by Pope Francis on March 5, a trip that faces challenges of security and rising COVID-19 infections.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by John Davison, William Maclean