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03 Apr 2020 | 07:16 AM UTC

Iraq: Local officials claim high number of unreported COVID-19 cases April 2 /update 19

Local Iraqi officials state the number of COVID-19 much higher than that which is reported on April 2; take precautions against virus

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Event

Local Iraqi officials have reported to media sources on Thursday, April 2, that the number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases is much higher than the official numbers the health ministry has reported. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that the country has somewhere between 3000 and 9000 confirmed cases, though the ministry has reported just 772 cases, 54 deaths, and 202 recoveries.

Separately, on Wednesday, April 1, local media reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) expects COVID-19 cases in Iraq to dramatically rise within the next ten days. According to Dr. Adham Ismail, a WHO representative in Iraq, figures are "still moderate so far, but expect a spike in the coming weeks" as "three laboratories became operational for COVID-19 testing in Najaf, Basra, and Medical City in Baghdad."

Iraqi authorities announced the extension of the ongoing nationwide curfew, first implemented on Tuesday, March 17, through to Sunday, April 19, in efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. It seems likely the closure of airspace will be extended in tandem with this position, although this is yet to be confirmed. While many provinces established curfews, the decision applies to the entire country. The country's airports are closed, as are schools, universities, religious sites, and other gathering places. International flights have been banned since Tuesday, March 17, until further notice.

In Baghdad, a travel ban prohibiting any travel into or out of the city, first implemented on Tuesday, March 17, will be extended until 23:00 (local time) on March 28. It is unclear whether this has been extended under the aforementioned extension.

Authorities in Basra announced a complete curfew in the city as of Tuesday, March 31, at 20:00 (local time), which also applies to the oil and electricity sectors, as well as to port operations.

The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) extended public holiday dates as the number of confirmed cases in the region rose by three to 128 on Saturday, March 29. All government offices, ministries, departments, universities, institutes, and public and private schools will be closed until Thursday, April 16. The holiday does not apply to security and health sector employees. The movement curfew will also be extended to April 16.

Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled the outbreak as a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.