COVID-19: Iraq announces 10-Day Lockdown

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Cabinet on Tuesday approved a recommendation by the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety to impose a 10-day full curfew from May 12th to 22nd, following a rise in COVID-19 infections across the country.

All malls, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, event and wedding halls, swimming pools and gyms will be closed and public and private gatherings will be prohibited.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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Fire Kills 82 at Baghdad Hospital

By John Lee.

A fire at a Baghdad hospital treating COVID-19 patients has killed at least 82 people, and left more than 100 injured.

The blaze, at the Ibn Khatib Hospital, was caused on Saturday night when an oxygen tank is said to have exploded.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has suspended the Minister of Health, the Governor of Baghdad, and the Director General of Rusafa Health Department, pending investigations, which are to be concluded within five days.

(Sources: Govt of Iraq, BBC, Reuters)

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COVID-19 hits Iraqi Labour Market, Enterprises

COVID-19 Dealt Heavy Blows to Iraqi Labour Market, Enterprises in 2020: IOM, FAO, ITC Study

In early April, Iraq surpassed 900,000 COVID-19 cases.

Necessary efforts to contain the spread of the virus throughout 2020 led to a reduction in economic activity; compounded by pre-existing economic challenges, drops in oil prices and the public health COVID-19 crisis, it is estimated that Iraq's economy contracted by 9.5 per cent in 2020.

To measure losses and investigate how small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Iraq are coping with the economic impact of COVID-19, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Trade Center (ITC) conducted a panel study in 2020 on 893 SMEs representing 16 sectors in 15 governorates in Iraq.

The study focused on the food and agriculture sector in order to determine variance in outcomes and effects on these firms when compared to non-agricultural businesses. The primary data used in this study was collected using ITC's COVID-19 corporate survey.

The new report Panel Study: Impact of COVID-19 on Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Iraq showcases the main findings from three rounds of data collection, covering the effect of border closures and lockdowns on revenue, production, and employment; accessibility of resources or ability to sell products; and mechanisms adopted to cope with the crisis.

Almost all firms in the study reported a decline in production or sales between February 2020, the pre-COVID-19 period, and the end of the year. Firms suffered large losses in revenue early on (an average decline of 67% by June).

Although revenue partially recovered between July and October, it did not reach pre-pandemic levels (firms reported a revenue drop on average of 23% between February and November). SMEs also reported incurring new debt over the year due to the pandemic, primarily through informal means such as borrowing from friends and family.

The labour market also suffered due to COVID-19. On average the number of employees in SMEs reduced by 27 per cent between February and June. By August, employment numbers began to recover but remained below pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2020, with the number of male and female employees, including full- and part-time, decreasing on average by seven per cent between February and November.

Furthermore, the reduction in employment temporarily widened the gender gap in the labour market. In February, there was 1 woman for every 15 men working in the surveyed SMEs. The gap reached 1 woman for every 19 men by August, but then decreased to 1 for 13 in November 2020.

Over the course of the study period, the mechanisms SMEs adopted to cope with the financial difficulties of the pandemic changed. Initially, SMEs laid off employees. Later, requesting leniency in repaying financial responsibilities and increasing marketing efforts emerged as the dominant strategies. In June, more than half of SMEs' reported being at risk of shutting down permanently (65%). By December, those reporting this risk reduced to less than a third (31%).

The same 893 SMEs were surveyed three times in 2020: 22 June to 7 July, 9 to 18 September, and 29 November to 15 December.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the European Union.

(Source: UN)

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UK’s $4m support for Iraq’s fight against COVID-19

By John Lee.

The United Kingdom has committed GBP 3 million (approximately US$ 4.1 million) to support the Government of Iraq's response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

With this contribution, the United Kingdom joins 12 international partners in supporting UNDP's COVID-19 rapid health emergency response in Iraq. UNDP's response aims to strengthen Iraq's health sector in response to the pandemic, improve access to isolation wards and medical equipment, increase public awareness of COVID-19 symptoms and prevention measures, and provide  personal protective equipment to healthcare workers.

Since launching its response in March 2020, UNDP has established 13 purpose-built COVID-19 isolation wards in Anbar (Fallujah and Ramadi), Babil, Basra, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Dohuk, Karbala, Kirkuk, Missan, Najaf, Ninewa and Salah al-Din governorates. Additional wards are being built in Diwaniya, Erbil, Muthanna and Wasit, bringing the total number of supported medical facilities  to 17.

UNDP Resident Representative Zena Ali Ahmad, said:

"Containing the coronavirus outbreak is the Government of Iraq's top priority, particularly with the second wave of infections country-wide. UNDP is on the front line, supporting Iraq's national healthcare system to tackle the outbreak. The United Kingdom's generous contribution enables us to boost our support even further as we collectively fight this pandemic."

Her Majesty's Ambassador Stephen Hickey (pictured) said:

"The United Kingdom supports the Government of Iraq in its fight against COVID-19, which continues to cause such challenges in both of our countries. We are pleased to make available this  unding through UNDP to strengthen Iraq's national health response and help manage the ongoing outbreak."

The United Kingdom joins Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States of America in supporting UNDP's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Iraq.

(Source: UN)

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More Lebanese Doctors leave for Iraq

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

More Lebanese doctors leave for Iraq

As Lebanon is sinking deeper into an unprecedented financial and political crisis, many medical doctors are increasingly packing their bags and leaving for the Gulf or Europe, and more recently for Iraq.

Click here to read the full article.

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Australia provides $1.6m for Women in Iraq

Australia provides AUD 2 million to UNFPA-women and girls interventions in Iraq

The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) renewed its commitment to reproductive health and rights of women and girls, and prevention and response to gender-based violence in humanitarian settings. The project will support the work carried out by UNFPA with a AUD 2 million [USD 1.6 million] contribution.

Women and girls, including individuals with disabilities and survivors of gender-based violence; and men and boys, as allies of the prevention and response to gender-based issues, will benefit from awareness and integrated gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health services.

Ms Paula Ganly (pictured), the Australian Ambassador to Iraq, said:

"Australia is pleased to continue our important partnership with UNFPA Iraq ... Providing assistance for reproductive health needs and rights of women and girls and protection from gender-based violence is essential to ensuring their full and equal participation in society."

Acknowledging the new funding, Dr Rita Columbia, UNFPA Representative to Iraq, said:

"I extend our sincere gratitude to the longstanding partnership with DFAT. This generous contribution will help women and girls to have easier access to quality gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health services, especially to women and girls with disabilities.

"Today, due to the uncertainty environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to work hand-in-hand to help the most vulnerable people stay healthy and live in a violence-free environment."

Australia is a strong advocate for women and girls' protection and reproductive rights. Since 2014, Australia has contributed AUD 18.2 million to UNFPA programming in Iraq, helping refugees, internally displaced people, people with disabilities, host communities and returnees.

(Source: UN)

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ICRC issues Annual Report on Iraq

While it continued to respond to needs generated by decades of conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2020 dedicated much of its work and efforts to help prevent or slow down the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate other risks arising from it.

It expanded its support to hospitals, primary health centers, physical rehabilitation centers, and places of detention where the ICRC has privileged access and could contribute to better protect detainees and prison staff from the disease.

Moreover, the ICRC strived to boost the capacity of vulnerable families to face the economic strain resulting from the pandemic, especially women-headed households, people with disabilities, Internally Displaced People (IDPs), and returnees, frequently in collaboration with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS). And in so doing, precautionary measures were duly integrated into our modus operandi, to protect both those we endeavor to support and our own staff.

The ICRC operates through its delegation in Baghdad and its offices located in Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Najaf, Ramadi, Basra, Khanaqin, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk.

Click here to download the full report.

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Covid-19: Govt amends Curfew, Announces New Measures

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Government has issued the following announcement regarding measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  1. A partial curfew will be implemented during the blessed month of Ramadan from 20:00 to 05:00 the following morning for the first three weeks of Ramadan, while allowing restaurants to provide delivery service.
  2. A full curfew on Fridays and Saturdays every week. Exempt are pharmacies, food marts, fruit and vegetable stands, and bakeries, and allowing them to carry out their work until 19:00, and allowing restaurants to provide delivery service.
  3. Enforcing measures by health control teams and the security forces, and holding violators accountable.
  4. Directing health departments to ask their employees in hospitals and health centres to provide proof that employees are Covid-19 negative through PCR examination results, with tests being conducted within a week or providing proof of their inoculation with a Covid-19 vaccine, to allow them to work starting 1 May 2021. Directors of health institutions will be held legally responsible for implementing and following up these procedures.
  5. Conducting PCR tests on all patients and their caregivers if they are unable to provide a certificate of  inoculation against Covid-19.
  6. Starting 1 May 2021, those employed in retail stores, restaurants, malls, factories and other places of business subject to health control measures will require inoculation. Health permits for the aforementioned businesses will be conditional on providing proof of inoculation of all staff. Following this date, businessowners will be held accountable and subject to fines if any employee cannot provide evidence that:
    • The employee has been inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine.
    • Those who are unable to be inoculated such as pregnant women and other contraindications, or those who can provide evidence that they contracted Covid-19 during the last three months, by providing a positive PCR test or CT-scan will need to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within the most recent week.
    • Ministry of Health monitoring authorities, with the support of the security forces, must hold accountable violators of these health measure in accordance with the Public Health Law and the decisions of the Higher Committee for Heath and National Safety.
  1. Starting 1 May 2021 staff working in pharmacies, drug stores, laboratories and private clinics, including radiology clinics, and private hospitals will not be allowed to work if:
    • They cannot provide evidence that they are Covid-19 negative through a negative PCR test conducted within the most recent week.
    • There cannot provide evidence of being inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine.
    • Ministry of Health inspectors and the relevant associations (Doctors' Syndicate, Dentists' Syndicate, Pharmacists' Syndicate) will enforce the implementation of the above and hold violators accountable and closing the practice of violators in accordance with the laws and regulations in force.
  1. Citizens will not be allowed entrance into ministries and government agencies of a crowded nature  (pension department, traffic directorates, passport directorates, civil and national status directorates, etc.), as well as not allowing employees of the aforementioned to work starting from 20 April 2021, in case of:
    • They cannot provide evidence that they are Covid-19 negative through a negative PCR test conducted within the most recent week.
    • There cannot provide evidence of being inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine.
    • All government entities not associated with a ministry and all governorates are responsible for implementing the procedures and following up with their employees and considering any violating employee in absent without payment.
  1. Sports clubs will not allow the presence of any of the players unless they present their inoculation card for the Covid-19 vaccine.
  2. The Ministries of Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Health will coordinate regarding conducting campaigns to vaccinate the covered groups of faculty and students.
  3. The Hajj and Umrah Authority will not register any of the citizens wishing to perform the Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages unless it is proven that s/he has obtained the inoculation card with the Covid-19 vaccine.
  4. Urging all government entities not associated with a ministry and all governorates to direct their employees to be inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine.
  5. Calling upon community leaders, students of religious sciences, tribal sheikhs, intellectuals, activists and media professionals to take their national and moral responsibility in raising awareness and not to stand watching in light of the continuing dangerous epidemiological situation.
  6. Calling upon all media outlets, governmental and private institutions, and civil society organisations to make efforts to urge citizens to adhere to preventive measures, and to encourage citizens to take the vaccine in health centres and accredited hospitals.
  7. Putting into force the application of the provisions of Article 240 of Penal Code No. 111 of 1969, as amended, related to violating orders and regulations, and authorizing the security forces in support of health teams and their application against citizens in violation in the event that they fail to pay fines.
  8. The Joint Operations Command, Baghdad Operations Command, the Ministry of Interior, and the National Security Agency will continue to support health teams in their inspections and follow-up on the implementation of preventive measures in public places, restaurants, shopping malls, cafes and others during and outside of official working hours.
  9. Reducing working hours in public departments and institutions by one hour during the holy month of Ramadan.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

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