In Rudaw 

Iraq-Iran flights ‘free to resume’ as coronavirus-linked suspension ends

Iraq’s ministry of transport announced flights between Iraq and Iran would resume on Monday, after an end to a two-week suspension of flights induced by coronavirus concerns in Iran.

Resumption of flights to the Iraqi and Iranian capitals and to Mashhad and Najaf, both cities with sites considered holy by Shiite Muslims, were announced by the transportation ministry on Sunday.

“The resumption of the flights took place after obtaining the fundamental approvals from the Iranian aviation authority to operate direct flights from Baghdad and Najaf to Mashhad and Tehran and vice versa,” Iraq’s Minister of Transport Nasser Hussein al-Shibli said on Sunday.

Speaking to Rudaw on Monday, Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Jihad Kadhim said that “both Iranian and Iraqi airlines are free to resume flights.”

Flights between the two countries had been suspended for 15 days from September 25 “in response to an official request from the Iranian Aviation Authority”, according to a previous statement by the transportation ministry, in response to the “detection of coronavirus cases in some Iranian areas.”

The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority imposed a ban on commercial passenger flights on March 15, as part of travel restrictions to limit the spread of the virus. The ban included all but military, medical aid, and cargo flights. International flights resumed on July 23.

Iraq and Iran, two of the world’s worst-hit countries by the pandemic, recorded their first coronavirus cases in February.

Coronavirus cases in Iran have reached an all-time high in recent weeks. On October 8, the Iranian health ministry announced 4,392 cases had been recorded in 24 hours – the country’s highest ever daily case total.

To combat the rise in cases, the government has reimposed movement restrictions in Tehran, Qom and some other provinces.

In a meeting with the national coronavirus task force, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said fines would be issued for people who fail to wear masks in public.

“Anyone leaving their home to go to public places must wear a mask. If they do not use a mask, they will be fined 50,000 tomans [$1.65], and the fine must be paid within two weeks,” Rouhani said on Sunday.

Those who are found to have contracted the virus and still go to public places will be charged 200,000 tomans [$6.65], he added.

Deputy coronavirus task force planner Ali Maher warned on Saturday of an alarming spike in cases in the last three weeks.

Hospitals dedicated to coronavirus treatment are not yet at capacity but could struggle if case numbers do not decline, Maher said.

“If you don’t have to come out, then don’t, and try to do your work online,” he added. Source