Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Iraqi authorities expand curfew hours from April 28 due to rise in COVID-19 cases. Further restrictions possible.

This alert affects Iraq

This alert began 29 Apr 2020 02:54 GMT and is scheduled to expire 22 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least May 22
  • Impact: Significant travel and business disruptions, heightened security

Summary
Iraqi authorities have expanded the country's curfew hours, beginning April 28, due to an increase in the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. The revised 1800-0600 curfew will be in place Sunday through Thursday, while a 24-hour curfew will be in force on Fridays and Saturdays, through at least May 22. The curfew hours in the Kurdistan region remain as 1800-2359 through at least May 1. Iraqi officials previously relaxed curfew hours to 1900-0600 for the observance of Ramadan, which began April 23. Additionally, authorities are requiring individuals to wear masks outside their homes and maintain safe social distancing in stores. Cars are not allowed to carry more than three passengers. Individuals who do not comply with the measures will face fines.

Iraq also extended its existing suspension of domestic and international flights through 2000 May 22 to slow the spread of COVID-19. The measure does not apply to emergency and cargo flights. Authorities permitted some shops and markets to operate. Schools, restaurants, and shopping centers will remain closed, and large gatherings and religious services remain suspended until further notice. Pharmacies, fuel stations, and grocery stores are exempt from the closure order. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also extended the closure of government departments through May 2.

Significant disruptions to public and private sector activities, including cross-border trade and the provision of travel documents and visas, will likely persist. Authorities could introduce new restrictions, depending on the evolution of disease activity in the coming days.

Background and Analysis
Iraq's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19). COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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