Dr Omran S Habib, MSc Community Health in Developing Countries (1981) and PhD (1985), discusses Iraq’s first six weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak. He describes how the pandemic has affected his work, how LSHTM’s training has aided him and along with other researchers, explains the control strategies put in place within Iraq.
How has COVID-19 affected your work?
In Iraq, social distancing was strongly advised and watched to ensure the maximum response of the population. Schools and universities are now out of work but online teaching/learning is going on to a great extent at university-level. Until now, life is wellmanaged. Basic services are available and from the data, the epidemic in Iraq is still under control. We hope no flare-up will take place.
How has LSHTM’s training helped you during this outbreak?
Regarding the training at the LSHTM, it shaped my academic character and performance. Throughout the last 35 years, I led enormous epidemiological work on various health issues; the main one being cancer epidemiology in Basrah. Now I am heavily involved in advisory work for a local task force and health authorities. We are also launching a package of research to help contain the epidemic.
Could you share some of your insights?
The outbreak in Iraq was not native in nature, rather it was imported to start with then local transmission took place to put the country at the margin of a fall into severe epidemic. The first case was officially reported on February 24 2020 and from that date onwards cases started to increase, gradually reaching a peak towards the end of March 2020.
The control strategy adopted in Iraq (until the March 30 2020) is based on:
1. Health education to promote hand washing and other personal hygiene.
2. Social distancing through advice to avoid gatherings and to stay at home.
3. Use of personal protection tools like masks.
4. Re-arranging the medical services to respond to increasing COVID – 19 cases.
5. Partial active surveillance to detect cases and follow up suspected cases and contacts.
6. Restriction of travel from and to Iraq and among governorates.
7. Environmental care in selected areas.
All these measures are guided by a national task force and satellite committees at the level of governorates.
In Iraq, from the date of discovering the first case on February 24 2020 to the last reported new cases on March 29 2020. A total of 547 cases were confirmed and reported by the National Task Force. The trend of accumulative numbers with time is similar to the pattern reported in countries experiencing high scale epidemic. The magnitude of the reported cases is much lower than these countries and even lower than most neighbouring countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The time trend of daily new cases is suggestive of slowly growing epidemic with multiple peaks.
To read the full report of COVID-19, Experience of the first six weeks in Iraq, please click here. This includes data sources, case definition, data analysis, graphs and time trend of incident cases.