Iraq slams curfew violations in Baghdad as coronavirus cases reach 192
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s Health Ministry on Thursday criticized violations of a curfew across parts of the country put in place to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus as the number of confirmed infections rose to 192 nationwide, 13 of them fatal.
Despite a curfew the government imposed in Baghdad on Tuesday, hundreds reportedly took part in a religious ceremony in the Kadhimiya district of the capital that houses one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam. Large numbers of cars and motorcycles were seen traveling on public roads, including taxis, public transport, and others.
At the same time, anti-government protesters are still out in the streets in parts of central Baghdad, which has nearly half the country’s total confirmed coronavirus cases. Demonstrations began in October in central and southern parts of Iraq, and, though they have slowed since, they continue, mainly in Baghdad and some southern cities amid general political turmoil.
Authorities “noticed that there are a large number of shops open and operating,” leading health teams to halt a disinfection process on the streets of the capital “due to fears of health complications [to] a large number of nearby pedestrians,” a ministry statement read.
The Health Ministry also stated that it rejects those “practices and violations” as it is “totally incompatible with the objectives of the bans effective for the period of 17 to 23 March… to stop the spread of the epidemic.”
The government measures include a ban on the movement of individuals and all public gatherings, especially religious congregations. The ministry urged security forces to ensure the curfew is effectively enforced and called on all entities to support the efforts of the government to limit the further spread of the coronavirus.
Late Thursday, the ministry announced the latest official data on the number of cases nationwide. The total number of reported cases typically increases throughout the day, since the Kurdistan Region releases its data after the central government and can add to the total number already announced in Baghdad.
After the Iraqi report, the Kurdistan Region Health Minister, Saman Barzinjy, announced to a news conference that the number of confirmed infections had reached 40. Hours after the briefing, health authorities in Sulaimani confirmed another person’s test had come back as positive, raising the total in the region to 41.
Barzinjy pointed out that most were people who had returned to the Kurdistan Region from Iran but noted that there were infected persons who had flown back from Germany and Sweden as well.
The Iraqi Civil Aviation Agency has suspended all flights to and from Iraq and also most domestic flights, except for cargo shipments. The Kurdistan Region has instituted a two-week quarantine for arrivals from several countries, most of them European, as part of measures to stem the growth of the outbreak.
Editing by John J. Catherine