The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced on Tuesday, August 4, that Iraq's border crossing with Turkey will be closed until Tuesday, August 11, to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Only commercial vehicles, or those issued with a special permit from the KRG Ministry of Interior, will be allowed through the Habur-Ibrahim Khalil border during this period.
Additionally, authorities in the KRG imposed tighter travel restrictions between the region and the rest of Iraq, with no travel permitted between the two through August 11 without an electronic permit. Public gatherings and events are banned, with tourist areas, parks and restaurants closed indefinitely.
Any passengers traveling from Erbil (EBL) and Sulaimani (ISU) international airports in the Kurdistan region must provide a negative COVID-19 test to be permitted to fly. Passengers must be tested for COVID-19 in the 48 hours prior to their flight. Passengers will need to pay for their test, which costs 100,000 Iraqi dinars (84 USD). The airports of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah opened on Saturday, August 1.
In the rest of Iraq, a total nationwide lockdown remains in place until August 9, as a precaution to limit the spread of COVID-19 over the Eid Al-Adha holiday. The measure does not apply in areas administered by the KRG.
Despite the additional restrictions and increase in cases, airports elsewhere in Iraq reopened for limited international commercial flights on July 23, with flights resuming to Beirut and Cairo from Baghdad. Further airports are to reopen in the near future. Restrictions that have been previously lifted may be reinstated should cases continue rising.
As of August 4, health authorities have confirmed 131,886 COVID-19 cases, with 4934 associated deaths in the country. Further spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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