COVID-19: Kurdistan reports nearly 250 new cases, tightens restrictions

The Kurdistan Region’s Health Ministry on Thursday announced it had recorded about 250 new coronavirus cases, eleven deaths due to the disease, and 159 recoveries.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region’s Health Ministry on Thursday announced it had recorded just under 250 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths due to the highly contagious disease.

Health workers confirmed the new infections after conducting close to 2,300 tests for the disease, according to a health ministry statement released to the public. Since the start of the outbreak, the Kurdistan Region has reportedly carried out just over 183,000 examinations in total.

The autonomous region has so far reported 11,816 coronavirus cases, of which 6,468 have been reported as having recovered, 4,893 remain active, and 455 have died, the ministry added.

The daily tally is about 40 higher than that announced by regional health officials on the previous day.

Read More: COVID-19: KRG announces 210 new infections and 143 recoveries

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) anti-coronavirus committee issued a new order on Tuesday, tightening the region’s preventive measures to fight the spread of the disease.

The inter-provincial travel ban in the Kurdistan Region would continue, it specified, unless a traveler presents a special permit issued by the Interior Ministry at security checkpoints located on provincial borders. Lawmakers in the national and regional parliaments are exempted from this ruling, provided “they comply with health guidelines.”

Foreign diplomats and Coalition forces can also travel between provinces, as can those who can prove they work for UN agencies and international organizations. The new order said that the KRG Department of Foreign Relations “will be tasked with issuing travel permits and facilitate travel for these bodies.”

The Interior Ministry will be issuing “travel permits to companies working in the communication and oil fields in coordination with the Ministries of Transportation and Natural Resources.”

“Border Crossings of Bashmakh and Haji Omaran will be open for Kurdistan Region citizens who are stranded in Iran and want to return home,” the KRG order continued, adding that “citizens who study in Iran or want to visit Iran for medical purposes or family reunions can apply for a travel permit online.”

“The international Erbil and Slemani airports will continue extraordinary flights,” to facilitate the return of Kurdistan Region citizens stranded abroad and foreign nationals inside the region back to their home countries. The two facilities will be ready to resume commercial flights on August 1, the order continued.

On the same day, Iraq's federal government in Baghdad reopened its airports for commercial flights, just as its Ministry of Health and Environment announced another 2,361 new coronavirus infections and 80 fatalities in the previous 24 hours.

Read More: COVID-19: Iraq resumes int'l flights as it reports over 2,300 new infections

Thursday's KRG order also stipulated that “Iraqi and foreign nationals can travel between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey provided they comply with all health guidelines, except Iranian passport holders.”

Travel between provinces within the Kurdistan Region and other Iraqi provinces will be permitted only for public employees, patients seeking medical treatment, those driving freight vehicles, farmers, and contractors.

The order also reiterated that governors have the authority to declare a complete or partial curfew when necessary and order the opening or closure of businesses due to compliance with, or violations of, government health guidelines.

Editing by John J. Catherine