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China builds new PCR lab in Iraqi capital to enhance testing of COVID-19

(Xinhua)    09:18, March 27, 2020

BAGHDAD, March 26 (Xinhua) -- A new PCR lab built by the Chinese team of experts has been inaugurated in Iraq's capital Baghdad, which will increase the testing capacity to contain COVID-19 in the war-torn country.

ENHANCE TESTING CAPACITY

After years of wars, Iraq has been suffering from weak health system and it urgently needs nucleic acid detection capability to confirm COVID-19 cases.

The Central Public Health Laboratory in Baghdad, the only place across Iraq to conduct PCR test, is under mounting pressure to conduct around 200 to 400 tests per day.

Based on the Chinese donation of 50,000 nucleic acid test kits and other equipment, the new lab built by Chinese experts has the ability to conduct some 1,000 tests per day to detect COVID-19 cases.

"We have exploited the presence of the Chinese team, which brought assistance, such as devices, supplies, and diagnostic kits for the infection of COVID-19," said Mohammed Ghanim Mahdi, director of the National Center of the Teaching Laboratories of the Medical City facility in Baghdad, told Xinhua.

"The new laboratory will give sufficient flexibility to the health authorities to expand the laboratory tests for suspected cases," Mohammed said.

"The testing ability in Iraq is far from enough," said Yang Honghui, a member of the expert group.

Iraqi health authorities should consider expanding the scope of testing after the new lab is put into operation, in an effort to detect cases early and isolate and treat patients in a timely manner, according to Yang.

REDUCE PRESSURE ON CENTRAL LAB

The pandemic in Iraq has reached a critical juncture as the number of newly reported cases has been rising over the past few days.

Iraqi Health Ministry on Thursday confirmed seven more deaths from COVID-19 and 36 new cases, bringing the total number of the infected to 382.

Asaad Mahdi, deputy director general of the Iraqi Ministry of Health, told Xinhua that the new Chinese-built lab will be instrumental in increasing Iraq's ability to test larger number of suspected cases of COVID-19, and will dramatically reduce the pressure on the central lab.

He said that the 50,000 nucleic acid testing kits and other laboratory equipment assisted by China are enough to support five new laboratories in other Iraqi provinces. This will increase Iraq's ability to expand its detected population and better respond to the outbreak.

"China has successfully stopped the pandemic, and Iraq is in urgent need of this experience, and we have benefited a lot from the Chinese expert group," Asaad Mahdi said.

GAIN CRUCIAL EXPERIENCE

PCR test and image detection complement each other in confirming cases infected with coronavirus. This is China's front-line prevention and control experience.

The Chinese assistance also included medical screening equipment such as mobile X-ray and CT, in addition to training the Iraqi health providers.

"They taught us a lot of their experiences, in addition to their daily presence, which added to our laboratory a modern touch that gives a lot to the laboratory service," Mohammed said.

The new laboratory will be the main laboratory in Iraq and is representing the first brick in the efforts of fight against the outbreak of coronavirus in the country, Mohammed added.

For his part, Assad Mahdi said "this new laboratory will enhance our capability to deal with this pandemic for the residents of Baghdad who make up to about 20 percent of Iraq's population."

He said that the Chinese medical team has excellent experiences, and the Iraqi health authority intends to ask them to prolong their presence to improve the performance of the Iraqi health cadres in confronting the pandemic.

To help Iraq cope with the spread of the novel coronavirus, a Chinese team of seven experts arrived in Baghdad on March 7.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: He Zhuoyan, Bianji)

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