Iraq’s health ministry is calling for international support to prepare the country for a possible case of coronavirus, should the deadly disease reach the country.
Similar to the Sars pathogen, coronavirus, now officially known as Covid-19, emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Its death toll reached a new high on Wednesday, even as Chinese officials said the infection rate showed signs of slowing.
China reported 97 more deaths from the disease, pushing the total number of fatalities past 1,100, despite much of the country shutting down to contain the rapid spread of the virus.
“Although there are no reports of the illness in Iraq, or from Iraqi expats abroad, we have set up special wards to receive infectious cases, but we need more support in this direction, especially in the medical and nursing capacity,” Iraqi deputy Health Minister, Jassim Al Falhy, told The National.
Iraq's health system has been crippled by years of conflict, corruption and poor investment.
Under the directives of the Health Minister, Jaffar Allawi, the ministry has set up a crisis committee that has approved the imposition of strict health measures for individuals arriving to Iraq from China.
“The most important measure that we have taken is the examination procedures for those coming to Iraq by land, sea and air from China,” Mr Al Falhy said.
The virus has now infected at least 45,000 people worldwide.
Iraq became one of the first countries to implement emergency measures outlined by the WHO, Mr Al Falhy said.
Iraqi authorities have “applied quarantine standards in accordance to international regulations because the incubation period of the virus ranges from two to fourteen days,” he said.
These measures were applied to several Iraqi citizens who were evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, Mr Al Falhy added.
The interior ministry issued a statement earlier this month that said it was working to repatriate 50 Iraqi citizens- mostly students and their families- from the Chinese city.
“We are committed to protecting our citizens from its disastrous effects and negative consequences for public health and safety,” the ministry said in a statement.
Iraq also banned foreign arrivals from China due to fears the virus might spread across the country.