Officials in the northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan announced the highest recorded daily increase in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases on Tuesday, August 11, with 653 new cases detected. The second highest daily increase in cases, numbering 566, was subsequently recorded on Wednesday, August 12. The governorate of Sulaymaniyah is the worst affected in Kurdistan, with more than 9500 cases, followed by the capital governorate, Erbil, with 7300. The north-western governorate of Duhok has recorded 1400 cases.
Currently, travel between provinces under Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) control is banned until further notice, with permits available for essential travel. Face masks must be worn in public and residents must abide by social distancing regulations. Parks, cafes, gyms, clubs, and swimming pools remain closed indefinitely, and large gatherings are prohibited. Health clinics, including dentist offices, are to be closed until Wednesday, August 19. Restaurants are limited to takeaway and delivery services only.
Airports in the region reopened on August 1, with any passengers traveling through Erbil (EBL) and Sulaymaniyah (ISU) international airports requiring 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).
Protests have been reported over the KRG's handling of the pandemic, particularly in Sulaymaniyah and other smaller cities, with protesters calling for early elections to be held.
As of August 12, health authorities in the KRG have confirmed 18,766 COVID-19 cases, with 686 associated deaths. In Iraq, 160,436 cases have been reported, with 5588 deaths. 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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