COVID-19: Kurdistan announces 252 new infections, eases restrictions

On Tuesday, Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Health announced 13 deaths and 252 new infections with the emerging coronavirus within the past 24 hours.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Health announced 13 deaths and 252 new infections with the emerging coronavirus within the past 24 hours.

A ministry statement specified that health professionals in the autonomous region conducted a total of 2,241 new tests, with 252 of them coming back positive. According to government figures, 130 of these were in Sulaimani province, 98 in Erbil, 14 in Duhok, and 10 in Halabja.

The statement also specified that 13 patients who had previously contracted the highly-contagious disease had died in the past day and marked 122 as having recovered.

Since the first case of the virus was confirmed in the Kurdistan Region in March, 11,361 people have been infected and 432 have died.

On Tuesday evening, the Kurdistan Region’s interior minister announced in a press conference that some anti-coronavirus restrictions would be relaxed in coordination with local governments of the four provinces and independent administrations.

"We discussed the issue of the resumption of airport activity, border movement with neighbouring countries Turkey and Iran, and also the movement of citizens within the region with other provinces,” Reber Ahmed, Minister of interior said following the meeting with the region’s local officials, stating that commercial truck drivers will be allowed into the Kurdistan Region provided that they are tested for COVID-19.

"Our airports will not be eligible to resume flights until the 1st of August. The ban on movement to and from other Iraqi provinces will remain the same, but with exceptions for trade, especially for the agricultural and poultry sectors," Ahmed added.

The minister also explained that there will be more easing of restriction limiting movement between the region’s provinces. To accomplish this, a plan to grant individuals electronic licenses permitting them to make such travel will be issued by provincial governments.

He continued, "Currently, we feel that there is a good level of awareness among the people, but more still needs to be done. The implementation of the measures is the responsibility of the citizens and we ask the media to play a greater role in raising awareness."

"We formed a committee to follow the official working hours of government institutions because a number of them do not adhere to preventive measures and we will take action against them,” added Ahmed.

“We also decided to keep the gyms, celebration halls, and cafes serving hookahs closed. Additional instructions will be issued regarding mosques, Eid al-Adha prayer, and Friday prayers during the coming days.”

Cross border travel to Iran and Turkey, Ahmedconcluded, "will only be for the essential travel because the virus is still circulating." 
The coronavirus has infected more than 14.8 million people worldwide and killed over 611,000 according to government-reported data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The actual figures could be dramatically higher due to insufficient testing capabilities or underreporting.

Editing by John J Catherine