$500m Support to be Available via Iraq Phone App

By John Lee.

Iraq's Higher Committee for Health and National Safety met in Baghdad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi. The meeting was conducted via video conferencing.

The Committee discussed a number of policy options to support Iraqi nationals abroad who wish to return home, and how to address the logistical and health challenges involved.  It is expected that the Committee will make an announcement on this issue shortly.

Following discussions on COVID-19/coronavirus, the Committee decided to:

  • Extend the curfew throughout Iraq until Saturday 18/04/2020;
  • Allocate 600 billion dinars [$504 million] over the next two months to support nearly ten million citizens. Applying and accessing this support will be via a phone app. Further details will be announced later.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

Iraq Extends Coronavirus Curfew

By John Lee.

Iraq's Higher Committee for Health and National Safety has decided to extend the curfew throughout Iraq until Saturday 18th April.

The move is intended to slow the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19 in the country.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

Iraq Produces COVID-19 Laboratory Supplies

Iraq produces COVID-19 laboratory supplies to more rapidly test cases

In cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVID-19 Crisis Cell of Basrah University in southern Iraq has successfully produced urgently needed laboratory supplies to speed up testing of suspected cases.

The global demand on supplies and equipment to fight COVID-19 has created a worldwide shortage of supplies. In particular, stocks of virus transport medium (VTM) - a gel-like substance used to preserve nasal swab specimens while they are being transported to laboratories - have been low.

As of 1 April, the University manufacturing team produced more than 1620 VTM, in addition to 3200 nasal swabs. These were delivered to health directorates in Iraq's Basra, Muthana, Karbala, and Wasit governorates.

This new production, along with the Reverse Transcriptase-PRC (RT-PCR) kits provided by WHO, has facilitated the testing of hundreds of suspected cases in southern Iraq.

"The latest bottleneck to contain and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Iraq has been the shortage of supplies and equipment needed to collect and transport samples," said Dr Adham Ismail, WHO Representative in Iraq. "For this, WHO and Basra University have coordinated efforts to produce the essential laboratory products needed to test suspected cases, and together, we set the overall goal for supplying the quantities needed countrywide," he added.

The new local production of VTM and swabs is a collective effort by Basra University, WHO, and other faculties like Al Zahraa Medical College, Faculty of Pharmacy, College of Sciences, and College of Agriculture, all in Basrah governorate. "We hope this will solve the domestic shortage issue resulting from the global demand," said Dr Saad Shahin, President of Basra University.

The Basrah Crisis Cell has also announced 3 other COVID-19 response measures, including an online application for COVID-19 self-reporting. So far, the app has been used by 4500 applicants, of whom 130 qualified for further testing by the RT-PCR kits.

Disinfectants and sterilization material, including hand-rub gel, have also been produced locally with support from WHO and the Government of Iraq.

(Source: WHO)

Rocket Attack Targets Halliburton in Basra

By John Lee.

At least three rockets are reported to have hit near Halliburton's site in the Burjesia area of Basra early on Monday morning.

It is understood that the incident caused no casualties or damage.

It is the first attack to target US energy interests in Iraq in recent months.

(Sources: S&P Global Platts, AP, Sputnik)

Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden give $5m to Iraq COVID-19 Response

Belgium, Netherlands and Sweden commit $5 million to tackle COVID-19 outbreak

The governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden have collectively committed US$5 million to support the Government of Iraq's response to the COVID-19 crisis, in partnership with UNDP Iraq.

The funds, which were originally pledged under UNDP's Funding Facility for Stabilization to help rehabilitate infrastructure damaged by ISIL, are now being urgently redirected to support UNDP Iraq's initial $24 million COVID-19 response package.

Measures to combat the virus under this package include increasing the testing capacity of laboratories, providing personal protective equipment to healthcare workers, increasing the number of isolation wards, and undertaking assessments to establish post-COVID-19 recovery strategies.

Focusing on the most vulnerable communities in Iraq, activities will be rolled out in eight hospitals selected by local authorities in the underserved areas of Anbar, Diyala, Dohuk, Basra, Karbala, Najaf, Ninewa and Salah Al-Din.

Resident Representative of UNDP Iraq, Zena Ali Ahmad, said:

"Containing the coronavirus outbreak is now the Government of Iraq's number one priority, particularly as infection rates rise, putting more pressure on the Iraqi healthcare system outside the major capitals. We're extremely grateful to Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden for acting swiftly to commit these funds and being so flexible in administering them.

"Due to the strict curfews imposed by the Government of Iraq, we've had no choice but to temporarily halt the implementation of our stabilization activities. However, by capitalizing on the tried-and-tested processes of our successful stabilization work, we will respond to this unprecedented global health crisis with the speed and agility UNDP Iraq is known for.

"Once this pandemic is under control, our stabilization activities will resume. Until then, we will work closely with the Government of Iraq, the World Health Organisation and other UN agencies to curb the crisis as best we can."

UNDP Iraq is currently discussing the remaining $19 million funding gap with other international partners.

Processes have been established to ensure that once funds have been committed, the response measures can be implemented immediately.

(Source: UN)

Covid-19: Iraq Announces Key Measures

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi on Wednesday chaired a meeting of the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety.

The Committee was established to direct and coordinate Iraq's national efforts to combat Covid-19.

The Committee agreed a number of measures, including:

  • Exempting all medicines, medical supplies and devices, diagnostic and laboratory equipment from import license regulations
  • Transferring 50 million US dollars to the General Company for Marketing Medicines and Medical Supplies
  • Establishing a committee to assess current and future market needs in terms of food, medical supplies and agricultural produce, with a mandate to promote Iraqi products
  • Facilitating the transit of lorries and refrigerated trucks carrying foodstuff, agricultural products, medical and veterinary materials between provinces and within cities
  • Monitoring the prices of essential goods to ensure that they remain stable, and to take measures against profiteers, according to law
  • Facilitating the transport of agricultural harvesters and livestock between provinces
  • Establishing a committee at the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers to investigate and report on support mechanisms for workers in the private sector during Covid-19
  • Establishing a committee to be chaired by the Minister of Planning to report on the financial impact of Covid-19 on citizens, and to suggest options to provide financial support to affected groups, especially those on low income

The Committee also discussed declaring a national day of solidarity to show support for those leading the national effort to combat Covid-19, to thank all Iraqis for their steadfastness and unity, and to pay the nation's respect to Iraqi families who lost loved ones because of Covid-19.

During the proposed national day of solidarity, which will be specified later, sirens will sound at a particular moment in the day, and the national anthem will be played on all TV channels, radio stations and other media throughout Iraq.

The  Higher Committee for Health and National Safety, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, includes several ministers, the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, the National Security Adviser, and a number of other officials.

The Committee is mandated with setting out policies, and adopting the necessary measures to contain Covid-19.

It will also coordinate with the Council of Representatives (Parliament), the judicial authorities, as well as relevant international organisations.

The Government Crisis Cell will continue to have responsibility for taking the necessary preventive measures and the delivery of Covid-19 health services, subject to the approval of the Prime Minister.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

Govt calls on Civil Society to fight COVID-19

By Lujain Elbaldawi for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi government calls on civil society to fight COVID-19

Despite the Iraqi government's intensive efforts to fight the novel coronavirus, it seems unable to accommodate the difficult circumstances due to its limited resources, not to mention the political crisis that has been plaguing it since protests erupted in October 2019.

The Iraqi government is thus calling on civil society and charities to provide aid with their resources.

Click here to read the full story.

COVID-19 in Iraq: The Virus of Social Inequality

By Maurizio Coppola for openDemocracy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

While the Iraqi government imposes a curfew and some cities close schools, universities and malls to limit the spread of the coronavirus, living conditions are getting more and more precarious due to lack of social and health protection.

Social protests are shrinking due to risk and fear of contagion, but tens of thousands of people continue to build popular solidarity.

The coronavirus has now reached the Middle East and North Africa and is having a serious impact on people's daily lives.

Today, the virus is also producing important changes with regard to the social protests that had begun to rock a number of states in the region in the past year.

More here.

(Source: openDemocracy)

Oil Production Flat in March, but Revenues Slide

By John Lee.

Iraq's Ministry of Oil has announced preliminary oil exports for March of 105,102,927 barrels, giving an average for the month of 3.390 million barrels per day (bpd), essentially the same as the 3.391 million bpd exported in February.

These exports from the oilfields in central and southern Iraq amounted to 101,395,907 barrels, while exports from Kirkuk amounted to 3,287,439 barrels, and from Qayara 129,041 barrels. Exports to Jordan were 290,540 barrels.

Revenues for the month were $2.989 billion at an average price of $28.436 per barrel.

February export figures can be found here.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

Gazprom “Not Reducing Investment” in Iraqi Kurdistan

By John Lee.

Russia's Gazprom Neft has reportedly said it will not reduce investment in its projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, despite a request from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to do so.

Reuters reports that following a slump in oil prices, oil producers have been asked to reduce their investments, which governments often have to partially reimburse as part of their contractual arrangements.

Gazprom Neft holds a participating interest of 40 percent in the Garmian block and 80 percent in the Halabja and Shakal blocks. The Sarqala field is located within the Garmian block.

More here.

(Source: Ekurd, Reuters)