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Iraq COVID-19 cases tower as lockdown measures ease

As the federal Iraq and Kurdistan Region’s governments both ease measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the number of COVID-19 cases has escalated in recent days, topping 3000 across the country on Wednesday.

After a week of not detecting any new COVID-19 infections, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) health ministry detected the virus in a 50-year-old man residing in Sulaimani city.

Moreover, Iraq’s health ministry recorded 119 new cases of the virus, as well as three deaths in the country on Wednesday. This is the highest number of cases Iraq has recorded in weeks.

Eighty-two cases and all of the three deaths were recorded in the capital city of Baghdad on Wednesday.

State-media outlet, Iraqi News Agency reported Wednesday that Hassan al-Tamimi, Iraq’s new health minister, urged citizens to follow the government’s health instructions and work intensively to prevent the spread of coronavirus following the upshoot in cases on Wednesday.

“The Minister of Health warned of an increase in coronavirus infections, while urging everyone to adhere to their required roles to limit its spread,” a statement from the ministry says according to INA.  “Security forces and medical  teams will crack down on crowded commercial activities that do not adhere to the health instructions and coronavirus prevention measures.”

“The minister called on clerics and tribal leaders to double pressure on citizens to adhere to health guidelines,” the statement added.

The new coronavirus detections brings the total number of cases in Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, to 3032. Of these, 115 have died and 1966 have recovered.

The KRG extended a lockdown between provinces until May 18th. However, the regional government granted powers to provinces’ individual governors to open public spaces and business, with public health instructions from the central government in mind.

The KRG also decided to reopen government offices on Monday as lockdown measures continue to be gradually lifted.

Travelers are now permitted to use the Kurdistan Region’s Ibrahim Khalil border crossing with Turkey and the Haji Omaran and Bashmakh border crossings with Iran between 8am and midnight on Mondays and Thursdays.

However, airports in Erbil and Sulaimani remain closed to commercial flights.

Iraq’s federal government also eased measures to contain the coronavirus on Sunday, implementing a partial curfew from 5pm until 5am in all Iraqi provinces, excluding those in the Kurdistan Region. A full lockdown in the same provinces is to be imposed during Eid al-Fitr, after the holy month of Ramadan. Source