BAGHDAD, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi Ministry of Health said on Thursday that the total nationwide COVID-19 infections reached 600,755, after 790 new cases were added.
The ministry also reported four more deaths, the lowest in about seven months, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 12,869.
It also reported 1,781 more recovered cases, bringing the total recoveries to 551,127 in the country.
A total of 4,774,142 tests have been carried out across the country since the outbreak of the disease in February, with 33,278 done during the day, according to the statement.
Iraqi Minister of Health Hassan al-Tamimi told the official Iraqi News Agency (INA) that Iraq continues with the restrictions recently imposed at airports and border crossings to prevent the new strain of coronavirus characterized by faster transmission.
"The new strain of coronavirus needs special laboratories to detect, and we have urgent coordination with the World Health Organization about testing the new virus, including building two laboratories in Baghdad; one in the Medical City and the other in Central Public Health Laboratory," al-Tamimi said.
Meanwhile, Sayf al-Badr, health ministry spokesman, told Xinhua that many factors have contributed to the decline in the recent daily infections and deaths.
"When the ministry started confronting the pandemic, it had only one laboratory, and now we have more than 70 laboratories for testing coronavirus," al-Badr said, noting the number of hospitals' beds was increased to 14,000 in the past months.
In addition, "we started with dozens of tests for the virus, and now we have the ability to conduct about 40,000 tests per day," he added.
The spokesman, however, complained about the failure of citizens to fully adhere to health measures in the past few months and warned of the danger of a new strain of coronavirus that has spread in many countries.
Late in December 2020, the Iraqi authorities decided to ban travel to Britain, South Africa, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Iran, Japan, and any other country the Ministry of Health would recommend.
The authorities also banned the entry of travellers from these countries, except for Iraqi citizens who must be quarantined for 14 days until a PCR test proves that they are not infected with COVID-19.
Moreover, the authorities decided to suspend the ground border crossings, except for emergencies and trade exchange, and to close malls, restaurants, and other public facilities from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. for two weeks starting Dec. 24.
China helped Iraq fight the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A Chinese team of seven medical experts spent 50 days in Iraq from March 7 to April 26 to help contain the disease, during which they helped build a PCR lab and install an advanced CT scanner in Baghdad.
China has also sent three batches of medical aid to Iraq.