Najaf, Shia pilgrimage site, halts entrances into city due to coronavirus

In an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, the Najaf Police Directorate announced on Monday that entry into the province by non-residents would be halted for a week, starting from Wednesday.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, the Najaf Police Directorate announced on Monday that entry into the province by non-residents would be halted for a week, starting from Wednesday.

Luay al-Yassiry, Najaf’s governor and the head of the crisis management committee, issued the order, prohibiting any non-resident or traveler to visit the province, except hearses.

Following the governor’s decision, prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged people in a statement on Tuesday to avoid performing mass prayers to mitigate the spread of the virus.

The statement came as a response to a question on his official website on performing mass prayers in light of the coronavirus.

“These gatherings are banned to limit the spread of coronavirus, it must be heard and taken seriously,” Sistani urged.

Najaf is a major destination for Shia pilgrims worldwide. Millions visit the holy shrine of Imam Ali annually in the province during Shia religious rituals. 

So far, there have been 69 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Iraq – 15 of them in the Kurdistan Region – and a total of seven deaths.

The disease has killed over 4,250 people worldwide and has infected over 118,000 in more than 100 countries.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany