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Homeland Security

Iraq: UN health agency helps beat 'latest bottleneck' in COVID-19 battle

5 April 2020 - With a global shortage of supplies and equipment to fight the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the UN health agency has assisted in successfully producing urgently needed laboratory items for testing suspected COVID-19 cases in 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," Adham Ismail, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Iraq said on Sunday.

In cooperation with WHO, the COVID-19 Crisis Cell of Basrah University in southern Iraq has produced 3,200 nasal swabs and more than 1,620 Virus Transport Medium (VTM) – a gel-like substance that preserves nasal swab specimens while being transported to labs.

The supplies were delivered to health directorates in Iraq's Basra, Muthana, Karbala, and Wasit governorates.

In addition to the new stock, WHO-provided Reverse Transcriptase-PRC (RT-PCR) kits – used in medical analyses – that have facilitated in testing hundreds of suspected cases in southern Iraq.

"For this, the World Health Organization and Basra University have coordinated efforts to produce the essential lab products needed to test suspected cases, and together, we set the overall goal for supplying the quantities needed countrywide", explained the WHO official.

Basra University in the fore

The new local production of VTM and swabs is a collective effort by Basra University, WHO and other faculties in Basrah governorate.

"We hope this will solve the domestic shortage issue resulting from the global demand," said Basra University President Saad Shahin.

The Basrah Crisis Cell also launched an online application for COVID-19 self-reporting that has, thus far, been used by 4,500 applicants, of which 130 were qualified for further testing by the RT-PCR kits.

And with WHO and Government support, it has locally produced disinfectants and sterilization material, such as hand-rub gel.

As of Sunday, Iraq reported 61 deaths, 961 confirmed cases and 279 recoveries countrywide.

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