Kurdistan, Iraq extend and expand curfews as coronavirus deaths climb

The moves came as the national Health Ministry announced the latest statistics on the novel coronavirus.
author_image Kurdistan 24

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal Iraqi government on Sunday extended curfews aimed at preventing the further spread of the novel coronavirus, a measure that some have ignored despite repeated warnings from authorities.

The moves came as the federal Health Ministry in Baghdad announced the latest national statistics on the disease, officially known as COVID-19 and classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

A ministry statement said that the number of people infected has increased to 233, with 20 deaths and another 57 who have recovered. Most of those sick with the virus in Iraq live in the highly populated capital, which has 94 reported cases.

The Kurdistan Region has 54 confirmed infections and one death. Sulaimani province has the highest number of cases in the autonomous region with 43.

Baghdad has decided to extend its curfew, in place since Tuesday, until at least March 28, a week after it was initially to have ended. The order originally was imposed only in provinces where infections had been recorded, but now includes all parts of the country.

Despite the order, however, hundreds of Shia Iraqi pilgrims on Saturday headed to the shrine of Shia Imam Musa al-Kadhim in Baghdad, where large amounts of food were served to marchers in an open buffet, as seen in videos posted on social media.

Related Article: Iraq slams curfew violations in Baghdad as coronavirus cases reach 192

The government deployed security forces to the area and prevented worshippers from entering. Across several neighborhoods in Baghdad, police have cracked down on violators of the ban, arresting 306 people, seizing 127 vehicles, and issuing 4,132 fines, according to a statement from Baghdad Operations Command.

The Kurdistan Region’s Interior Ministry also announced a curfew extension on Sunday, saying the ban on movement would continue until April 1. It initially only included Sulaimani and Erbil provinces, but was then expanded to include all areas under KRG jurisdiction.

Read More: KRG extends curfew another 5 days, now across entire Kurdistan Region

The region’s security forces have also logged curfew violators. On Saturday, police units surveyed a resort area outside the city of Erbil and fined over a dozen drivers who had gone to there to take part in picnics, a popular pastime. The teams asked citizens to strictly adhere to government safety guidelines and return to their homes.

Read More: Iraq, Kurdistan crack down on coronavirus curfew violators as infections rise

The KRG has made successive public announcements and carried out multiple awareness campaigns to promote habits that would reduce the chance of being infected with the coronavirus, officially referred to as COVID-19 and classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO in Iraq on Thursday praised the measures enacted and the leadership role played by the KRG in facing the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus. 

Read More: WHO praises Kurdistan Region’s anti-coronavirus efforts

An official from the organization told local media, “The citizens in the Kurdistan Region are more committed to the instructions, especially concerning the curfew, in comparison to the other Iraqi provinces.” 

Over 335,000 people have caught the virus worldwide, and the numbers continue to rise in what appears to be an exponential increase, according to data compiled by WHO. More than 14,000 have died, as per official numbers reported by governments around the world, though the rate could be dramatically higher amid underreporting allegations. 

Editing by John J. Catherine