KRG warns against violating coronavirus measures; Iraq reports 83rd case
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdistan Region Interior Minister Rebar Ahmed warned on Thursday that any official who fails to implement government measures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus would face penalties, just as the number of confirmed cases across Iraq and the autonomous region rose to 83.
Ahmed stressed during a press conference with regional Health Minister Saman al-Barzinjy that the new orders made by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) meant to contain the virus are crucial to follow.
Earlier that day, the Iraqi Health Ministry in Baghdad confirmed six new infections of the virus, officially known as COVID-19 and considered a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The country, including the Kurdistan Region, now has a total of 83 cases. Of those, eight have died while another 24 have reportedly made full recoveries.
“A number of cases were recorded in Sulaimani and Erbil and we wish them a speedy recovery,” Ahmed said, adding to the barrage of updates and recommendations that residents of the Kurdistan Region have become familiar with in recent weeks.
The KRG has established a committee made up of senior government officials to monitor the unfolding situation regionally and worldwide, and issue measures against the further spread of the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the committee issued several decisions, including halting inter-provincial movement—exempting health teams, diplomats, UN agencies, and security forces—for two weeks starting March 14. It also banned travel to and from the rest of Iraq to Kurdistan “except in cases of extreme necessity.”
Ahmed said that the government “will take legal measures and punish any official who wavers in implementing the decisions” of the committee. He also repeated the call made previously by him and several other KRG officials for citizens to remain indoors and avoid public gatherings.
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The minister stated that the coming two weeks in the Kurdistan Region “are fateful, so it is necessary to implement the decisions issued by the committee yesterday.”
The committee also passed steps to ensure that commercial traffic delivering goods to the region at the border crossings would continue in a way that allows minimal contact to prevent potential infections while still providing essential goods. The body also said it had directed that all sports activities in the region be halted, except the Iraqi premier league which will continue without audiences.
For the same period of two weeks, the KRG has also suspended all flights between airports in Erbil and Sulaimani and those in Baghdad and Basra, exempting diplomats, UN workers, official delegations, and coalition service members.
The Kurdish minister added that the spread of the virus had had an impact on the economy of Iraq as a whole, stating that the KRG will seek ways to limit the financial damage caused by the current situation and reduced oil prices in global markets.
Editing by John J. Catherine