Kurdistan bolsters coronavirus precautions; Newroz celebrations suspended
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Though local authorities have not recorded any cases of the coronavirus in the Kurdistan Region, authorities continue to take precautionary measures in order to prevent a potential outbreak of the infectious disease that has spread across much of the world.
On Thursday, health officials concluded work on repurposing sections of hospitals to use for quarantining those infected with the virus, now officially referred to as COVID-19, and those suspected of being infected.
“I hope we can all work together to combat this illness and, hopefully, our people will remain healthy and safe,” said Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, who visited medical centers and called for public support to maintain the safety of the population
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Iraq has recorded seven cases so far and the federal government has taken a wide range of steps to stem its spread. The KRG has closed down kindergartens, schools, and universities until late March. Authorities are also calling for the closure of restaurants and cafes.
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On Wednesday, the Erbil provincial government said it had suspended the celebrations it holds annually to mark Newroz, the Kurdish new year. The KRG called on all other government entities and businesses in the region to follow suit to prevent a potential spread of the illness.
The Newroz holidays are a major tourist attraction in Kurdistan, with hundreds of thousands flocking to the region annually to partake in the festivities of the Kurdish new year at scenic resorts and mild seasonal weather conditions.
“For this period in Erbil, we have suspended all Newroz celebrations,” Erbil governor Firsat Sofi said during a press conference in the capital on Wednesday. “I hope all sides will cooperate to keep our city safe and healthy.”
“We call for the canceling of Newroz celebrations planned by companies, parties, institutions, and every organization,” said regional Interior Minister Rebar Ahmed at a joint press conference with the Minister of Health, Saman Barzinjy.
Ahmed added that tourists are barred from entering the Kurdistan Region and called on residents to avoid traveling to the cities of Najaf and Kirkuk, where cases have of infection been recorded, and recommended limited transportation between the different provinces of the region, “unless it is necessary.”
Editing by John J. Catherine