INTERVIEW WITH DR. ANMAR
“Since the closure of our Erbil physiotherapy centre due to the coronavirus outbreak, our main contact with the medical situation in Erbil has been through our clinic’s resident doctor, Dr Anmar. Alongside his work with STEP-IN, providing check-ups and referrals to our physiotherapy patients, Dr. Anmar also works at Qaraqosh General Hospital, primarily in the Emergency department. Qaraqosh is a small Assyrian city close to Mosul, residing outside of Iraqi Kurdistan where STEP-IN works. As Dr. Anmar witnesses firsthand how Iraq is responding to the Coronavirus outbreak, he seemed a prime candidate for interview, sharing his knowledge on coronavirus and the situation in Qaraqosh with our readers.”
– Ash Davies, STEP-IN Field Coordinator Erbil.
Is Qaraqosh under curfew like governorates within Iraqi Kurdstan?
(The Kurdish Regional Government, KRG, has imposed strict curfews. Throughout the day travel is only permitted for essential activities and a strict curfew is imposed every evening from 6pm to midnight. Travel between governorates in the region is strictly prohibited. Due to the history of conflict in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan there are checkpoints at multiple locations on main roads and entrances to settlements.)
Yes. Access to Qaraqosh is extremely limited. The only people who can enter are those who need to access the hospital from other towns. There are medical staff on the check points that check the temperature of the people coming in and ask about respiratory symptoms. If there are any suspicions that they have coronavirus they are given masks and gloves and an ambulance is called to take them to hospital. The also disinfect the cars when they pass through the checkpoints.
What is the current situation at Qaraqosh hospital?
During the last few weeks we have had some cases, about 5, that we considered suspected cases. We referred them to Mosul, to Al-Salam Hospital, fortunately their results were negative.
Do you think the number of suspected and confirmed cases of coronavirus in Qaraqosh
are being identified and reported correctly?
This is a difficult question. In every place around the world you cannot tell if the official numbers are real or not because, as we now know, most infected people don’t display symptoms or their symptoms are mild, presenting like the common cold. As such potential cases may not visit the hospital, rather they stay at home, so they may never be recorded as a suspected case.
Qaraqosh is a small city, and everybody stays in their homes, there are no people on the streets. As I mentioned before, we have put into action a lot of preventative measures, like medical staff on checkpoints. We are taking a lot of caution and are doing a good job with preventive measures. We hope that we don’t have any hidden cases in the city.
Do you think that Qaraqosh is prepared for an outbreak of coronavirus?
We hope that will not happened but if it occurs it will depend on the number of cases and severity of symptoms if we can handle it. Qaraqosh is small city and our hospital is a general hospital, we treat ordinary diseases. All coronavirus patients are referred to Mosul to Al-Salam Hospital, which is now only working on coronavirus cases, hopefully they do not have too many patients for their capacity.
What are the best preventative measures the general public can take against Coronavirus?
Stay home and only go outside for important/ essential things. When you come back in from outside, leave your shoes outside the house and then go directly to wash your hands and then your face before touching anything. Then, if you are able, change and wash your clothes, this applies to medical personnel especially. Frequent washing of your hands is very important and to avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose before washing your hands is also very important.
And finally, what would you recommend to the folks at home to help them stay healthy during the curfew?
To eat healthy foods rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C & D. Don’t worry too much and don’t think too much about the disease. It is enough for you to stay at home and follow the published medical instructions, then everything will be ok.
Thank you Dr. Anmar for your time, knowledge, and advice!