Security forces fired live ammunition at anti-government protesters gathered in Al-Rifai (Dhi Qar province), on Monday, April 27, wounding at least seven demonstrators. Additional security forces were deployed to Al-Rifai and a curfew has been imposed in Dhi Qar province.
Following the easing of a month-long curfew on movement due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), anti-government protests resumed in Iraq on Tuesday, April 21. Clashes between shopkeepers and protesters in Baghdad prompted the intervention of security forces and left one paramedic dead and four protesters wounded. Further clashes between security forces and protesters took place in Baghdad on Thursday, April 23, although no casualties were reported.
Further protests and associated violence are likely in Iraq over the coming weeks amid prevailing insecurity. A heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation and business are to be expected around demonstration sites.
Also, notably, the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority has announced an extension to the existing commercial flight ban until Friday, May 22, to curb the domestic spread of COVID-19. Chartered flights and those repatriating Iraqi nationals, however, will continue to operate so long as appropriate measures are taken.
Iraqi authorities announced on Tuesday, April 21, that lockdown measures would be eased during Ramadan, allowing the reopening of selected businesses. The new measures allow residents in Baghdad to move freely between the hours of 06:00 and 19:00 (local time). However, a complete curfew remains in effect on Fridays and Saturdays. The relaxed curfew will last until the end of Ramadan on Friday, May 22. After Ramadan, previous lockdown measures will apply. Mosques, shopping malls, and parks will remain closed during the partial lifting of the lockdown. The ongoing nationwide curfew was initially implemented on Tuesday, March 17.
As of April 27, health authorities have recorded 1820 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iraq, including 87 associated deaths. Further international spread of COVID-19 is to be expected over the near term.
Demonstrations broke out in Iraq on October 1, 2019, to protest alleged government corruption, inadequate provision of public services, and a lack of job opportunities. Following weeks of relatively calm demonstrations, violence resumed on October 24-25, coinciding with the deadline issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani for the government to produce a report on the members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were responsible for firing at civilians during previous demonstrations. An estimated 670 people have been killed and over 24,400 people have been wounded since the protests began.
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). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed.
Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the outbreak as a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Individuals in Dhi Qar province and throughout Iraq are advised to monitor the situation, avoid all protests, anticipate a heightened security presence near demonstration sites, budget ample travel time if traveling near protest sites, and obey instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas with proper security protocols in place, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.
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 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 virus.
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