In Iraq, the economic crisis supplants fear of the virus

Baghdad (AFP) - In Iraq, a country ravaged by decades of conflict and in the grip of an economic crisis that has boosted unemployment and poverty, many have abandoned sanitary masks, more concerned about the economic impact of the pandemic than by the virus.

"The general feeling is that the pandemic has calmed down and this has led people to become negligent," says Nafea Firas, 23, a worker in a Baghdad pharmacy where boxes of masks, visors and disinfectant gel pile up despite price discounts.

When entering the store, most customers ignore the sign that instructs them to wear a mask and the bottle of hydroalcoholic gel provided.

Falling oil prices - on which Iraq depends for its income - delay in paying civil servants' salaries and pensions: this is what worries the Iraqis.

The poverty rate has fallen from 20% to 31.7% this year, according to a study by Unicef and the World Bank.

After exploding at the start of the school year, the number of cases of Covid-19 and deaths due to the disease has fallen in recent weeks, according to official figures.

Out of 30,000 tests carried out on December 12, a thousand were found to be positive, 4,000 less than the daily average recorded in September, ditto for deaths, a drop that experts struggle to explain and which does not encourage compliance with sanitary instructions.

"When I walk down the street with my wife and we wear a mask, people look at us as if we are doing something wrong," said a retired military man, one of the few pharmacy customers to wear protection.

Posted Date: 2020-12-22

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