Covid-19: Iraq Extends Nationwide Curfew

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi chaired on Saturday a joint meeting of  the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety and the parliamentary Covid-19 crisis cell.

At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister paid tribute to Iraq's health teams for being on the frontline during the current health emergency, and to Iraqi security forces for supporting Iraq's national effort to combat Covid-19.

The Prime Minister thanked Iraqi families for observing the curfew and complying with other restrictions during this very challenging period.

Following discussions, the joint meeting agreed a number of measures, including:

  • Extending the nationwide curfew in Iraq until 06/06/2020. Grocery stores, bakeries and pharmacies are exempt, provided that no more than five customers are allowed into such premises at any one time, and that both staff and customers wear face masks
  • Restaurants to remain closed, but are allowed to offer home delivery service
  • All ministries will remain closed during this period, except for the ministries of Health, Electricity, Agriculture and Water Resources, as well security ministries and municipality services
  • The wearing of face masks in public remains compulsory, with fines for those who fail to comply
  • Domestic flights remain suspended, as are flights to and from Iraq
  • The security forces are directed to strictly enforce these measures in cities and towns, and within neighbourhoods

The joint meeting underscored the importance of all citizens continuing to follow official health advice and physical distancing guidelines, and to comply with the curfew to keep themselves, their families and communities safe.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

Iraq registers Dramatic Jump in COVID-19 Cases

By Al-Monitor staff. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq registers Dramatic Jump in COVID-19 Cases

Iraq registered more than 400 positive COVID-19 tests today, its highest ever total in a single day.

The Iraqi Health Ministry reported 416 infections today. The number included a whopping 265 in the capital, Baghdad. There were other cases in the south, the Kurdistan Region and throughout the country, according to the ministry.

The figure was the highest ever in a single day in Iraq, according to the Iraqi Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.

Click here to read the full story.

UNAMI: Individual Responsibility Essential to Confront COVID-19

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) applauds the Iraqi government's leadership and decisive response to the COVID-19 outbreak at a time when it is also confronting separate crises, including social unrest and an unprecedented economic downturn.

The UN commends the determination shown by local, regional and national authorities to contain the virus, as well as the success of the early and sustained measures that were adopted with strong support from communities. It nevertheless warns that each and every person plays a critical role in facing the ongoing second wave of infections observed across many governorates.

Recalling her recent statement to the UN Security Council, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert stressed that "no amount of government response can succeed without the active involvement of the entire population". She added "Despite the high hardship imposed by these measures, we know that they represent our best hope of getting back on our feet as soon as possible".

The entire United Nations family, with the World Health Organization (WHO) in the lead, is providing critical assistance to Iraq to face the pandemic, including lab and medical supplies, personal protective equipment, funding and technical advice.

"Iraqis can continue to count on the steadfast support of the United Nations during their time of need. The ultimate responsibility lies with individuals, who must play their part by following the instructions of the health authorities to protect themselves and their families'', the Special Representative concluded.

(Source: UN)

Iraq Requests NATO’s Help with COVID-19

By John Lee.

NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) has received a request for international assistance from Iraq to control the spread of COVID-19 and deal with those affected.

The EADRCC is NATO's principal civil emergency response mechanism in the Euro-Atlantic area.

It is active all year round, operational on a 24/7 basis, and involves all NATO Allies and partner countries.

The Centre functions as a clearing-house system for coordinating both requests and offers of assistance mainly in case of natural and man-made disasters.

(Source: NATO)

Psychological First Aid Training in Iraq

WHO conducts remote psychological first aid training in Iraq to address COVID-19 stigma and discriminatory

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been experiencing varying degrees of fear, concern, anxiety and stress which requires psychological support to enable them to cope better with the challenges they are facing.

In Iraq, WHO identified groups in need of psychological care, with a special focus on women, and addressed their needs through a series of online training sessions on psychological first aid and how to address stigma and discrimination.

In April this year, remote psychological first aid training was provided to more than 100 participants from several organizations working in the field of mental health and psychosocial support. The training introduced the principles of providing psychological care using phones or social media outlets.

Participants were coached to deal with stigma and shame suffered by people who have contracted COVID-19. They shared observations of negative behaviours and attitudes seen as directly contributing to negative health outcomes and difficulties in accessing information on the disease in pandemic-affected locations.

One of the training participants commented: "My neighbour refused to allow his 68-year-old mother to go to the isolation facility because of stigma. It is hard for a man in Iraq to allow his mother, wife, daughter or his sister to be taken for quarantine or isolation outside the family home; community traditions and social norms don't allow it."

Other participants spoke about how people infected with COVID-19 experience severe stress due to isolation from the family, neighbours, relatives and community.

"Stigma in some areas is cultural or grounded in social beliefs around the shame of getting a communicable disease," another participant from Mosul commented. "I think a lot of people don't understand that we all are vulnerable to COVID-19; acquiring the disease can happen to anyone and we need to focus on raising awareness and educating ourselves on preventive measures, the top of which is social distancing and hand hygiene. There is no shame in going into quarantine or staying away from family and friends if you are sick."

Participants were also made aware of the important role they play in convincing the populations they serve to report suspected COVID-19 cases and encouraging them to maintain a proper and healthy lifestyle, including adopting appropriate breathing, talking, eating and body hygiene protocols.

"People with COVID-19 have to a certain level been negatively associated with stigma and discrimination worldwide," said Dr Adham R. Ismail, WHO Representative in Iraq. "WHO and the Ministry of Health and Environment jointly confirm that all people regardless of race, social status or ethnic background are vulnerable to the disease if protective measures are not properly followed." "WHO and health authorities recognize the importance of addressing the health needs of those in need and continue providing specialized services to help them feel calm and able to maintain normal life activities in this difficult time," concluded Dr Ismail.

(Source: UN)

COVID-19: ICRC Response in Iraq

By John Lee.

The first Covid-19 case in Iraq was officially confirmed on 24 February 2020, and as figures continue to rise across the country, authorities are adopting increasingly stringent measures to avert further spread of the virus.

While these important measures can help contain the outbreak, they are also creating serious additional challenges for a population suffering from decades of conflict, economic deprivation, and political uncertainty.

More here.

(Source: ICRC)

Parts of Baghdad in Full Lockdown due to COVID-19

By Al-Monitor staff. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Parts of Iraqi capital go under full lockdown after jump in virus cases

Parts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, will go under a full lockdown after a jump in coronavirus cases, Iraqi Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi announced in a statement posted on social media today.

The order said there will be a full lockdown starting Wednesday for two weeks in several Baghdad neighborhoods. The areas covered include several populous areas outside downtown Baghdad, including Ameria and Sadr City.

The decision follows 150 new coronavirus cases recorded in Iraq today, with 120 in Baghdad, including 48 in the Rusafa area, the ministry said. Other places where cases were registered included Najaf, Karbala and Sulaimaniyah.

Click here to read the full story.

$33.6m from World Bank for Coronavirus Outbreak

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Iraq, the World Bank has recently approved the re-allocation of U$33.6 million under the current Emergency Operation for Development Project (EODP-US$750 million) to support the Ministry of Health's efforts in preventing, detecting, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This fast track emergency response comes in two phases. The World Bank initially mobilized US$7.8 million from resources that were immediately available under the EODP to help finance the supply of essential medical equipment and supplies and strengthen intensive care unit (ICU) capacity at public hospitals for improved COVID-19 case management.

Through cooperation with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), ventilators, ICU beds, ECG machines, mobile X-ray machines and defibrillators will be delivered to designated sites in four to eight weeks.

In a follow-up step, the World Bank also approved the Government of Iraq's request to re-allocate an additional US$25.8 million under the project to supply additional quantities of equipment and consumables and support the training of health workers and front-line responders on their use.  The expedited procurement procedures of UNOPS will ensure the timely delivery of medical supplies to the Ministry of Health.

"The pandemic is expected to particularly hit poor and vulnerable households. The World Bank stands ready to support Iraq's efforts to contain the rapid spread of the virus and strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Health to address the additional strain the pandemic poses on the Iraqi health system," said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director.

The reallocation of funds does not affect the initial scope of the Emergency Operation for Development Project which aims to support Iraq in the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure and the restoration of public services delivery in targeted municipal areas. As a matter of fact, and through the procurement of goods, works and consulting services using World Bank's procurement and financial management regulations, over 3 million people in five governorates liberated from ISIS are already benefiting from improved health services through the rehabilitation of damaged clinics and the supply of 14 mobile clinics and 82 ambulances, restored electricity connectivity by 35%, improved  key municipal services with the provision of purified drinking water and waste collection schemes, and restored access through the reconstruction of 400 km of roads and 25 critical bridges. The project is also contributing to promoting state/citizen trust-building and reconciliation through the training of 79 non-governmental organizations and over 1,000 young men and women on peaceful dialogue and reconciliation in their communities.

The Emergency Operation for Development Project was initially approved in July 2015 in the amount of US$350 million. An additional financing to the project in the amount of US$400 million was later on approved in October 2017 to allow the geographic scale-up of existing project activities to additional cities liberated from ISIS.

World Bank Group COVID-19 Response

The World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response. We are increasing disease surveillance, improving public health interventions, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. Over the next 15 months, we will be deploying up to $160 billion in financial support to help countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery, including $50 billion of new IDA resources in grants or highly concessional terms.

(Source: World Bank)

UNHCR Welcomes Japan’s contribution to COVID-19 Responses in Iraq

UNHCR welcomes the Government of Japan's contribution towards COVID-19 responses in Iraq

UNHCR welcomes the new contribution of USD 1.5 Million from the Government of Japan towards the response to COVID-19 for internally displaced persons, returnees and refugees in Iraq.

The new funding comes at a critical time when many communities, especially the most vulnerable, have been affected due to COVID-19 restrictions. This funding is supporting timely awareness-raising campaigns on the transmission and prevention of COVID-19 in addressing the needs of vulnerable displaced families, as well as ensuring access to basic hygiene items and protective gear for medical staff in primary health centres and authorities at border points.

Also, through this generous contribution UNHCR is supporting the Directorate of Health in Duhok and Erbil governorates to provide training on case definition and detection and management of suspected cases of COVID-19.

The Ambassador of Japan to Iraq, His Excellency Mr. HASHIMOTO Naofumi (pictured) stated "Given that COVID-19 is raging across the world, it is crucial for the international community to make concerted efforts, and I hope that the Japan's assistance through UNHCR would help prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Iraq."

He added "Under such challenging circumstances, I wish to engage in and strengthen a close cooperation with the new Government of Iraq in a wide range of issues".

The UNHCR Acting Representative in Iraq, Ms. Philippa Candler, commented, "during this global crisis, we have been all affected. The effect on vulnerable communities is even more acute. This generous and timely contribution will assist in our efforts in the response of COVID-19. Ensuring the health of communities is part and parcel of protection."

In response to the current situation, UNHCR has established procedures to continue providing services and maintain presence in the field. Under the current context, most basic services continue to function in camps and in areas with a high density of displaced populations. UNHCR also adapted its work modalities to ensure assistance continues to be delivered remotely including legal counselling, protection monitoring among other activities while respecting social distancing.

In response to the COVID-19 global humanitarian appeal, Japan has generously donated USD 23.9 million to urgently assist displaced communities around the world.

The Government of Japan has been one of UNHCR's largest donors and supporters of many years.

(Source: UN)

Iraq Considers Reopening Cement Plants

The Higher Committee for Health and National Safety held a meeting in Baghdad on Monday via video conferencing under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi.

The Committee reviewed and evaluated current measures to combat Covid-19 and received briefings from the Ministry of Health, specialists and officials from relevant ministries.

The Prime Minister commended the high degree of coordination between relevant government departments and the crisis cells across the country, which he said contributed to enabling Iraq to make progress in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

'Odd-even' rule for vehicles:

The Higher Committee decided that, based on even and odd numbered license plates, vehicles will be allowed on roads and public highways on alternate days. This measure comes into force on Tuesday 05 May 2020.

Helping families to return home:

The Higher Committee discussed how to assist families who, because of curfew and restrictions on movements, have been unable to travel between Iraqi provinces to return to their home.

The Committee said it is considering easing some restrictions for one day only to enable these families to return to their home towns, adding that it will make an announcement on this issue soon.

Restarting Iraq's cement plants:

The Higher Committee also discussed plans to restart Iraq's cement manufacturing plants to meet the needs of the local market and to maintain price stability.

Stay at home:

The Higher Committee called on all Iraqis to continue to stay at home, to go out only when absolutely necessary, and to comply with physical distancing rules.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)