Iraq continues ban on shrine visits as Iran seeks to resume pilgrimages

In a statement on Tuesday, the Iraqi General Commission for Border Crossings refused to allow any entry into the country as Iran recently announced plans to resume religious visits to both Iraq and Syria.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In a statement on Tuesday, the Iraqi General Commission for Border Crossings refused to allow any entry into the country as Iran recently announced plans to resume religious visits to both Iraq and Syria.

The response comes as Iran’s head of Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization announced plans on Tuesday to resume religious visits to Iraq and Syria despite the spread of coronavirus in both countries.

“The border crossings are closed with Iran and Kuwait for tourism and trade purposes until further notice,” the statement read.  

“Reopening of the border crossings will be allowed by the health guidelines, which is within the authority of the Supreme Health Committee,” it added.

The statement further remarked that there has not been any decision yet in that regard by the Health Committee. “The decision [to reopen] also depends on the Health Ministry rules and regulations, and we [the Commission] adhere to those rules and regulations that are issued for the safety of citizens,” the Commission said.

Visits by Iranian pilgrims to holy shrines in Iraq have been halted for two months following the outbreak of coronavirus.

Iraq’s first case of COVID-19 was reported in Najaf province in late February when an Iranian national student of a religious school was diagnosed with the virus.

In further efforts to mitigate the risks of coronavirus in the southern provinces of Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged people to avoid performing mass prayers.

Read MoreNajaf, Shia pilgrimage site, halts entrances into city due to coronavirus

According to the latest figures by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, there have been 1,378 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 78 deaths.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany