Local authorities in the northern province of Erbil in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region began easing restrictions in place on Saturday, July 4, amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Authorities announced the reopening of shops and restaurants (for delivery only) from Sunday, July 5, between 05:00 and 20:00 (local time). All establishments will be closed on Fridays, except for pharmacies and bakeries. Government offices have also reopened at a 30 percent capacity between Sunday and Wednesday from 09:00 to 13:00. Strict health restrictions and hygiene measures will be in place and civil servants and visitors will be required to wear face masks. Public transport and private clinics will be allowed to resume operations, following strict precautionary measures.
Restrictions will continue to apply at mosques, churches, wedding venues, public baths, language centers, condolence halls, gyms, cafes, bars, swimming pools, and all public parks and spaces, which will remain closed. There will be no restrictions on traffic and movement within the province, however, the travel ban between Erbil province and other provinces of the region and the rest of Iraq remains in place until further notice. According to local sources, the new measures came into effect at 2359hrs on Saturday and will be in place until 2359hrs on Sunday, July 12.
Local sources indicate that the region has recorded 7048 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 240 associated fatalities. In Iraq, there have been 62,275 confirmed cases and 2567 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is to be 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). 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) declared the global outbreak 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.
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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