KRG imposes curfews, orders quarantine of those returning from abroad as infections continue
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region's health ministry announced on Friday that nine out of 251 coronavirus tests conducted in the autonomous region came back positive, while the interior ministry announced a list of new measures aimed at curbing the further spread of the infection, including curfews and mandatory quarantines.
The disease, officially known as COVID-19 and recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global pandemic, has infected over 145,000 and killed nearly 5,500 worldwide since first appearing in China in late 2019.
The new cases in the Kurdistan Region add to a total of 28 infections, one of which was fatal. The health ministry added that the latest cases included that of a 48-year-old man in Halabja who had recently returned from Iran and was under quarantine. The ministry reiterated its call on citizens to stay in their homes.
“Upon any suspicion, you are advised to call 122 [on your phone] and suspected cases must stay put until medical teams reach you,” read an advisory message by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
On the same day, the regional interior ministry announced, “The imposition of a total curfew inside the cities of Erbil and [Sulaimani] effective for 48-hours starting at 12:00 midnight on Friday until 12:00 midnight 15th of March 2020.”
The ministry later clarified that journalists are exempt from the curfew, “provided their press cards are shown.”
The ministry also called on anyone who has recently returned “illegally” to the Kurdistan Region from Iran “must immediately report to the medical teams” for appropriate health checkups. “Failing to do so will lead to mandatory quarantine and prosecution under the law for the intentional spread of the virus and illegal border crossing.”
Iran has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, with Tehran having reported 11,364 infections so far and 514 deaths recorded.
Iraq has recorded 102 cases with nine deaths across the country, including the Kurdistan Region.
The KRG interior ministry also stated that “Iraqi and foreign citizens that have traveled to the following countries in the past 30 days will undergo tests and quarantined for a duration determined by the Health Ministry.” The countries include most European Union nations, where the coronavirus outbreak is soaring with Italy being affected most critically. The Mediterranean country reported 250 deaths just on Friday, totaling 1,266, with 17,660 cases recorded.
As part of the measures it has taken, the Iraqi government issued a decree on Friday that banned movement between provinces and religious gatherings, a crisis cell set up in response to the outbreak announced in a statement. The body explained that traveling between provinces would be halted until March 25.
“The decisions also included [allowing] the reopening of restaurants to serve home delivery only and preventing all forms of gatherings, including wedding parties, mourning, and social events.”
Editing by John J. Catherine