Kurdistan closes schools, universities as fears of coronavirus outbreak grow

Increasingly broad preventative measures to block a potential coronavirus outbreak in the Kurdistan Region topped discussions during a Tuesday meeting of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) cabinet, chaired Prime Minister Masrour Barzani.
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ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Increasingly broad preventative measures to block a potential coronavirus outbreak in the Kurdistan Region topped discussions during a Tuesday meeting of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) cabinet, chaired Prime Minister Masrour Barzani.

On Monday, multiple regional countries, including Iraq, announced their first cases of the viral infection, officially known as COVID-19. All those infected had recently been to Iran. The number of reported cases in Iran has increased to 95, with 15 being reported to have died.

Iraqi health authorities reported four new confirmed earlier on Tuesday, all people who had returned from Iran to the disputed city of Kirkuk. 

Read More: Iraq’s Health Ministry confirms four cases of coronavirus in Kirkuk

As Iran turns into a new epicenter for the virus after China, the Kurdistan Region has been taking measures to prevent a potential outbreak, including restricting all travel by Iranian nationals to the autonomous region.

Read More: KRG proposes plan to keep coronavirus out of Kurdistan Region

Starting Wednesday, all public and private schools and colleges will be shut down by government order until March 10, the start of the Newroz holiday that continues until March 23. Classes are set to resume on March 24, and the relevant ministries have been instructed to arrange makeup days to ensure the educational curriculum is covered, a statement on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) website said. Universities will also close down during a similar period but will restart classes again on Feb. 29.

Ministers also voted to suspend "unnecessary travel" within the Kurdistan Region and halt others entering from other parts of Iraq until further notice. Health authorities are charged with testing all tourists coming to the region for symptoms associated with the coronavirus.

"The monopolization and raising of prices for goods are not allowed in the Kurdistan Region," the statement affirmed, adding that any infringement would be met with "severe legal measures."

The KRG said it would ensure that there would be no shortage of everyday necessities, such as food, and called on citizens to cooperate with the new orders and take all appropriate precautions against the spread of the virus. 

Editing by John J. Catherine